SPOKANE, Wash. – The opportunities were there for another comeback win but the Chapman University baseball team fell 10-5 to Willamette in the opening game of the Spokane Regional. The Panthers (34-12) won four straight elimination games to win the SCIAC Tournament and will need a duplicate effort to advance.
Chapman pounded out 17 hits to actually outhit the Bearcats (29-17) by five hits. However, the Panthers left 11 runners on base and hit into three double plays that cut rallies short.
Willamette built a 6-0 lead by the fourth inning, forcing the Panthers to dip into their bullpen early. Sophomore Austin Merrill was the third Chapman pitcher of the game when he took over in the fifth inning. He allowed a single to the first batter he faced but struck out the next to and picked the runner off at first to end the inning. He went on to retire nine batters in a row to halt the Bearcat offense.
Senior Gavin Blodgett led the comeback attempt with a 4-for-5 day at the plate, including a double. Senior Justin Stream put the Panthers on the board in the fifth when he looped a two-run single into right to make it 6-2.
In the sixth, three singles loaded the bases with one out to bring the tying run to plate for the first time. Junior Alex Tsuruda beat out a double play attempt to drive in one but that was all the Panthers would get. In the seventh, senior Conner Larkin came to the plate as the tying run with two runners in scoring position. He promptly drove in fellow senior Jared Love with a well-struck single into left. A double play ended the threat.
Merrill tossed four innings in total with back-to-back doubles in the eighth being the only blemish on a nearly flawless outing. He allowed the one run on three hits and struck out a pair.
Chapman rallied again in the eighth with a single and an error again putting the tying run on base with one out. Willamette was again able to wiggle out of the jam with a groundout and strikeout.
Bearcats' starter Matt Steindorf allowed 14 hits over seven innings but limited Chapman to four runs to pick up his 11th win of the year. Joseph Faudskar pitched the final two innings, escaping the jam in the eighth and shutting down another rally attempt in the ninth to get the save. Troy Conway led the early Willamette charge as he was a homer shy of the cycle. He drove in three runs with a two-RBI triple in the second and another RBI-single in the fourth.
The Panthers will play in the first elimination game of the tournament tomorrow at 11 a.m. against the loser of the Redlands – UT-Dallas game currently underway.
By Steven Olveda
Sports Information Director