SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth has made its first trip to the NCAA Division III baseball tournament a special one. The Pirates have reached the Division III finals in Appleton, Wisconsin on their first try after winning the McMinnville Regional last week at Linfield College.
Whitworth (30-14-1) will take on top-ranked and defending national champion Marietta (OH) (42-7) in its opener on Friday at 7:45 pm (CDT) / 5:45 pm (PDT). It is the final game of four on the first day of the tournament.
The six other teams that made the Division III finals are: Webster (35-12), Wheaton (MA) (38-9), Cortland State (39-7-1), Kean (37-10), St. Thomas (MN) (38-8), and Christopher Newport (34-8). St. Thomas (2009) and Kean (2007) join Marietta as recent national champions.
The Pirates: Whitworth came out of the losers' bracket to win the McMinnville Regional. After a 5-0 opening-round win over La Verne, Whitworth was beaten by Trinity (TX) 8-3. On Friday the Pirates faced the prospect of playing top-seeded Concordia (TX) with the winner having to face Trinity in the nightcap. Whitworth came through with flying colors, beating Concordia 5-1 and routing Trinity 12-0 to advance to Saturday's championship game. The Pirates would end up playing 15th-ranked Trinity a third time in the championship and defeated the Tigers 9-2 to win the regional title.
Kevin Valerio was named the regional's MVP after batting .438 (7-16) with a tournament-high of seven RBIs. Dan Scheibe, who pitched a complete-game shutout in the opener and threw 4.1 scoreless innings in relief in the championship, was also named to the All-Regional team along with Landon Scott, Joshua Davis and Erik Nikssarian.
Whitworth has improved to 30-14-1, setting the school record for victories in a season. The previous record was 26 wins in 1989.
Youth Movement: Whitworth has relied on a group of seven freshmen and sophomores in the starting lineup throughout the season. Sophomores Tyler Pfeffer (LF) and Gerhard Muelheims (2B) have been two year starters. Four freshmen have become regular position player starters as well: Nick Motsinger (SS), Paul Miller (3B), Erik Nikssarian (RF) and Joshua Davis (C).
Seniors Have Seen it All: Whitworth's seniors have seen the growth of the program first hand. That group won ten games in their first season, 13 as sophomores, 20 in 2011 and 30 and counting this year. Landon Scott (DH), JR Jarrell (1B) and Kevin Valerio (CF) have all been starters throughout their careers. CJ Perry has been a starter in the pitching rotation for the last two seasons.
The NCAA Finals Field
Marietta (Marietta, Ohio)
Coach: Brian Brewer
Conference: Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC)
Colors: Navy Blue, White
Webster (St. Louis, Mo.)
Coach: Bill Kurich
Conference: St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC)
Colors: Navy, Gold
Wheaton (Norton, Mass.)
Coach: Eric Podbelski
Conference: New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC)
Colors: Royal Blue, White
Cortland State (Cortland, N.Y.)
Coach: Joe Brown
Conference: State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC)
Location: Cortland, NY
Colors: Red, White
Mascot: Red Dragons
Kean (Union, N.J.)
Coach: Neil Ioviero
Conference: New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC)
Colors: Blue, Silver
St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minn.)
Coach: Chris Olean
Conference: Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC)
Colors: Purple, Gray
Christopher Newport (Newport News, Va.)
Coach: John Harvell
Conference: USA South Athletic Conference (USAC)
Colors: Royal Blue, Silver
Pirate Post-Season History: Whitworth advanced to post-season playoffs 17 times in its history as part of the NAIA, but the Bucs had not been to the post-season since 1992 when Whitworth was swept in the NAIA District 1 playoffs by Lewis-Clark State.
Whitworth advanced out of the NAIA District Playoffs to the NAIA Area Playoffs five times between 1984 and 1991, reaching the Area 1 championship game in 1987. Whitworth also won the District 1 Playoffs in 1960 to advance directly to the NAIA World Series and the Pirates won that to claim the only team national championship in school history.
The Bucs won the 1959 District Playoffs against Western Washington, but the school could not afford to send the team to the national tournament that year.
The Coach: Dan Ramsay has led the renaissance of the Whitworth baseball team over his four seasons as the head coach. The Pirates won ten games in his first season in 2009, but had doubled that total by 2011. In 2012 Ramsay has led Whitworth to the NCAA Division III baseball tournament for the first time in school history and has been named Northwest Conference Coach of the Year and D3baseball.com West Region Coach of the Year.
The former Pirate catcher is the eighth former Whitworth player to coach his alma mater since 1955.
News and Notes:
- The most famous baseball player in Whitworth history is Ray Washburn, who pitched the Pirates to the 1960 NAIA title and went on to win two World Series rings with the St. Louis Cardinals. He threw a no-hitter against San Francisco in 1968.
- The Bucs were picked sixth in the 2012 Northwest Conference preseason coaches poll.
- The Pirates outscored their final three opponents in the McMinnville Regional by a 26-3 margin.
- Head coach Dan Ramsay has been named the NWC Coach of the Year and D3baseball.com West Region Coach of the Year.
- Ramsay (26) is in his fourth season coaching the Pirates. He became head coach at age 22 right after he finished playing for the Pirates. He is a former All-NWC catcher.
- Tyler Pfeffer, the D3baseball.com West Region Player of the Year, leads the Northwest Conference in home runs, doubles, RBIs and runs scored.
- Gerhard Muelheims has set a school record for total at-bats in a season (197).
- Landon Scott has played in 155 games in his career at Whitworth.
- Centerfielder Kevin Valerio was named the MVP of the McMinnville Regional after batting .438 (7-16) with seven RBIs.
- Valerio was a 2011 Rawlings NCAA Division III Gold Glove winner.
- Dan Scheibe, a First Team All-NWC honoree, struck out 49 batters in 34 innings during a four-game winning streak in April.
- Scheibe's 91 strikeouts this season rank third on Whitworth's best single-season record list.
- Jason Renner has set a Whitworth single-season record with seven saves in 2012.