SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth will play the most important baseball series at Merkel Field in more than 10 years when the Pirates host Pacific University in a three game Northwest Conference set this weekend.
The teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday, beginning at noon, then play a single game at noon on Sunday.
Pacific comes into the weekend in first place in the NWC with a 13-2 record, two games ahead of the Pirates (11-4) in the league standings. The NWC championship and the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament are all determined by the regular season finish.
The last time Whitworth hosted a series of such magnitude was April 28-29, 2001 when first place Willamette came to play second place Whitworth in a series that determined the final league finish for both schools.
Pacific (16-11 overall) has relied on a very strong pitching staff to vault to the top of the league standings. Rob Dittrick, the 2011 NWC Pitcher of the Year, is 6-1 this season with a 2.17 ERA. Mike McGuire is 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA, while Chad Fahey is 4-1 with a 3.23 ERA. Dittrick leads the league in wins and is fifth in earned run average. As a team the Boxers have the second best overall earned run average in the NWC.
Whitworth is among the league leaders in hitting. The Pirates lead the conference in runs scored and are second in team batting average. Sophomore outfielder Tyler Pfeffer leads the NWC in home runs (9), runs batted in (41), triples (4) and runs scored (35). Landon Scott (30) and JR Jarrell (29) are third and fourth in the NWC, respectively, in RBIs this season.
Last year the Boxers took two of three against the Pirates in Forest Grove, Oregon.
Pacific and Whitworth sit atop a bunched chase for this season's title. Linfield (15-6) and Pacific Lutheran (10-5) are right behind the Pirates in the standings.
Winning a conference title would be unfamiliar for both the Boxers and the Pirates. The last NWC baseball championship for Whitworth came in 1991. The last conference title for Pacific was in 1979.