Kelley and Rowan Blast Two-Out Homers in 9th Inning to Defeat Bruins, 9-8

Bearcats Rally from 7-1 Deficit in Sixth Inning

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University rallied from a 7-1 deficit in the sixth inning to defeat George Fox University, 9-8, on Sunday, March 18 at John Lewis Field. With two outs in the ninth inning and WU trailing 8-6, Sky Kelley (Jr., RF, Portland, OR/Jesuit HS) blasted a 2-run homer to left field to tie the game. Mitch Rowan (Jr., LF, Cotati, CA/Rancho Cotate HS) batted next and smacked a solo homer to right field to score the winning run.

Kelley hit two home runs during the game. He gave Willamette a 1-0 lead with a solo homer in the first inning. Rowan, in addition to providing the game-winning hit, connected for a double in the seventh.

The Bearcats improved to 5-14 on the season, 3-6 in the Northwest Conference. George Fox fell to 9-12 overall, 5-4 in the NWC.

Willamette took an early lead courtesy of Kelley's solo blast to left field with two outs in the Bearcats' first at bat. George Fox tied the score in the second inning when Danny Clifford doubled to center field, went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Derek Dixon and scored on an infield single by Timothy Williams.

The Bruins edged into a 2-1 lead in the top of the third. With one out, David Greenstein singled through the right side and went to second on a stolen base. Taylor Hunter was hit by a pitch, and then Josh Rapacz hit the ball to shortstop. Hunter was thrown out at second, but the relay throw to first was off target. Greenstein scored on the error.

GFU led by one run until the top of the sixth, when the Bruins tallied five runs for a 7-1 lead. Williams was hit by a pitch with one out. Back-to-back singles by Nick Benish and Todd Nagamine loaded the bases, and a single by Derek Blankenship down the right field line brought Williams home. The second run scored when Greenstein walked. Nagamine reached home on a wild pitch.

The final two runs in the sixth crossed the plate on a sacrifice bunt by Hunter. Catcher Dylan Summers (Sr., Lake Oswego, OR/Lakeridge HS) grabbed the ball and threw out Hunter at first base.

Blankenship scored from third on the play, while Greenstein, who got an early start toward third, rounded the bag and headed toward home. Greenstein beat the return throw from Tiras Koon (Fr., 1B, Honolulu, HI/Iolani School) to Summers at the plate.

Willamette cut the margin to 7-5 with four runs in the bottom of the sixth. Tyson Giza (Jr., CF, Salem, OR/Sprague HS) walked to open the stanza and Kelley was hit by a pitch. Rowan reached base on a fielder's choice to the mound. The throw by pitcher Tom Zarosinski pulled Blankenship off the bag at second, allowing Kelley to advance on the error. Giza ended the play at third.

A balk advanced all three runners, with Giza crossing the plate. Kelley scored when Tosh Semlacher (So., 3B, Gold River, CA/Jesuit HS) grounded out to shortstop.

After Koon walked and Andrew Wilson (Fr., DH/OF, Granite Bay, CA/Granite Bay HS) reached base on a fielding error by relief pitcher Taylor Hill the bases were loaded again. Hunter Gallant (Fr., 2B, Rescue, CA/Ponderosa HS) drove in two runs with a single through the left side.

Clifford belted a solo homer on the first pitch of the seventh inning to provide George Fox with an insurance run. WU pulled within 8-6 in the bottom of the seventh, when Kelley and Rowan connected for back-to-back doubles with two outs.

WU narrowly missed scoring at least one run in the eighth. Koon walked and then went to second on a wild pitch with one out. Bryan Afzali (Fr., OF, Manhattan Beach, CA/Mira Costa HS) pinch-ran for Koon. Gallant batted next and drilled a line drive toward the shortstop, who was just able to catch the ball with a leaping effort. Afzali, who had taken a secondary lead, was doubled off second base to end the inning.

The score was still 8-6 when the Bearcats began their final at bat in the ninth inning. Groundouts on a bunt near home plate and a ball to shortstop quickly led to two outs. Pinch-hitter Rolenn Himuro (Fr., OF, Honolulu, HI/Punahou School) kept the game going with a single to center field. Kelly tied the game with his two run homer.

Rowan faced a 2-1 count before winning the game with the walk-off homer to right field. He was met at home plate by a happy mob of teammates waiting to celebrate the home run and the come-from-behind win.

It was the second time in Northwest Conference play this season that WU has won a game in its final at bat by a 9-8 score after trailing 8-6. Earlier, the Bearcats won the first game of their series with Pacific Lutheran University when Brandon Chinn (So., 1B, Salem, OR/Sprague HS) scored on a wild pitch for the Bearcats' third run in the ninth inning.

On Sunday, Kelley and Rowan were the offensive leaders for WU. Kelly went 3 for 4 with four runs scored, two homers, a double and three RBIs. Rowan hit a double and a homer, while going 2 for 4 with two runs and two RBIs.

For George Fox, Clifford finished 4 for 5 with a double, a homer, two runs and an RBI. Williams was 2 for 3, scored once and drove in one run.

Willamette relief pitcher Ryan Smith (Sr., RHP, Milwaukie, OR/Rex Putnam HS/U. of Redlands), who entered the game with a runner at first and no outs in the top of the ninth, got out of the jam with a double play on a strikeout/caught stealing sequence and another strikeout. Smith evened his record at 1-1. GFU reliever Alex Keenan fell to 2-2 with the loss.

The Bearcats are scheduled to play a make-up game at Corban University on Tuesday, March 20. Game time is set for 4 p.m. (PDT).

BOX SCORE

Willamette University 9
George Fox University 8

Mitch Rowan smacked a walk-off solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the game.

Mitch Rowan smacked a walk-off solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the game.