SPOKANE, Wash. – The 2012 Northwest Conference baseball championship, or at least a share of it, is now out there for the taking for Whitworth after the Pirates swept visiting Whitman in a doubleheader on Saturday at Merkel Field and got a little help in Tacoma.
Whitworth got strong starting pitching performances from Dan Scheibe and Carson Blumenthal to improve to 25-13-1 overall and 18-5 in the NWC. The Bucs are now tied with Pacific (Ore.) atop the league standings after the Boxers split their doubleheader at Pacific Lutheran (16-7) on Saturday.
If the Pirates and Pacific both win tomorrow they will share the NWC crown but Whitworth will get the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament based on taking two of three from the Boxers two weeks ago.
Whitman (5-33 overall, 5-18 NWC) and Whitworth will complete the three game series on Sunday at Noon.
Game 1 – Whitworth 7, Whitman 4
Scheibe survived a grand slam by Whitman's Kyle Moyes to toss a complete game for his fifth straight pitching victory, leading the Pirates to a win in the opener.
Whitworth rallied for four runs on five hits in the bottom of the second inning, taking advantage of a pair of Whitman errors. Erik Nikssarian singled home the first two runs. Nikssarian moved to third on a double by Joshua Davis and scored on a throwing error at shortstop. Kevin Valerio followed with an RBI single to drive in Davis with the final run of the inning.
Scheibe allowed a leadoff single in the top of the first, then dominated the first six innings on the mound. He retired 16 Whitman hitters in a row until Chris Andrews singled with one out in the sixth.
But the Missionaries got to Scheibe in the seventh. Two singles and a hit batter loaded the bases for Moyes. Moyes drove his seventh home run of the season over the centerfield wall to tie the score with one swing of the bat. Aaron Cohen followed with a double and Whitman had a chance to take the lead. But Scheibe retired the final three batters, including Andrews on a strikeout with two outs and Cohen at third base.
The Pirates retook the lead in the bottom of the seventh inning. With one out Nick Motsinger and Gerhard Muelheims singled. Tyler Pfeffer, the NWC leader in RBIs this season, doubled off of the wall in left-center field, driving in two runs. Landon Scott followed with an RBI single to right that drove in Pfeffer.
Whitman got a runner on base in both the eighth and ninth innings, but Scheibe worked out of trouble in both frames. He struck out Jonny Lari to end the game for his 11th strikeout.
Scheibe improved to 5-2 after allowing four runs on seven hits. He only had one walk to go with the 11 strikeouts.
Justin Weeks (2-9) went 6.1 innings for the Missionaries, giving up seven runs (six earned) on 11 hits. He struck out one and walked none.
Motsinger, Scott, Davis and Valerio all had a pair of hits for the Pirates. Moyes had two hits for Whitman.
Game 2 – Whitworth 13, Whitman 2
Motsinger drove in five runs from his leadoff spot in the lineup and Blumenthal pitched eight strong innings to help the Pirates claim a sweep of the doubleheader.
Blumenthal improved to 5-4 after allowing only one run on six hits. He struck out six batters and walked four. James King pitched the ninth for the Pirates.
Whitworth scored two in the first and two in the fourth to take a 4-1 lead against Whitman starting pitcher Will Thompson (0-8). The Pirates then broke the game open in the late innings.
The key inning was the sixth for both teams. A single, walk and bunt single loaded the bases for Whitman against Blumenthal with nobody out. But Blumenthal got two strikeouts and a ground ball to first base to get out of the inning without any runs scoring.
Whitworth then notched three runs of its own in the bottom of the sixth. Motsinger doubled home the first two runs and Scott singled in Motsinger with the third run.
JR Jarrell hit his third home run of the season leading off the seventh inning.
Motsinger added a two-run single in the eighth. Motsinger finished 2-4 with the five runs-batted in, while Jarrell went 3-4 with three RBIs. Pfeffer, Paul Miller, Nikssarian, Valerio and Michael Takemura all had two hits for the Pirates, who finished with 17 hits in the game.
Chris Konolige had Whitman's only RBI in the second inning. Jimmy Madden, Moyes, and MacLean Harned all had a pair of hits for the Missionaries.