SPOKANE, Wash. – The endless road trip of 2017 continues for the Whitworth baseball team this week as the Pirates travel to Newberg, Oregon to take on the George Fox Bruins in a four-game series. Only the first three games will count as Northwest Conference contests. The fourth game will be a non-conference makeup of the game that was rained out on February 4th. Both day's doubleheaders will start at 11:00 am.
Watch the Whitworth baseball schedule for live links to follow the games.
The Pirates: Whitworth is off to an 0-5 start in Northwest Conference play after losing three in a row to Willamette in a "home" series played at Pacific Lutheran University last weekend. The Pirates are now 6-6 overall. The team is batting .249 and has a 3.82 ERA.
Willamette jumped out to a 7-1 lead over Whitworth through three innings of the series opener on Saturday and that's the way the game ended as neither team scored another run over the final six frames. Daniel Casanova drove in Whitworth's only run. Starting pitcher Hugh Smith gave up six runs on seven hits in 2.2 innings. Brady Simmelink was strong in relief, allowing only one run on four hits in 5.1 innings.
The Pirates looked like they were going to return the favor after jumping out to an 8-1 lead after two innings of Saturday's second game. But the Bearcats scored six runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth to rally for a dramatic 9-8 win. The comeback spoiled a sterling effort from starting LHP Ryan Kingma, who allowed only one run on four hits in 7.0 innings. Spencer Locati had a pair of RBIs for the Bucs.
Whitworth lost the finale 6-3 on Sunday after Willamette scored four runs in the top of the first inning. Starting pitcher Matthew Young settled down after the first and allowed only two more runs over the next six frames, but still had to take the loss. Matthew Nelson drilled his fourth home run of the season in the fourth inning. The three-run shot gives him 17 RBIs this year, which is currently second in the NWC.
The Opponents: George Fox University (5-9 overall, 4-5 NWC) is coming off of a series sweep at Pacific University, which got the Bruins headed in the right direction after a 2-9 start. GFU, now batting .259 as a team with a 7.45 ERA, is 0-6 at home this year. Freshman infielder Matt Voelzke is hitting .294 and he leads the team with three doubles and 13 RBIs. Senior LHP Dustin Wells, a First Team All-NWC honoree in 2016, is 2-2 with 22 strikeouts in 22.1 innings. But he also has a 6.04 ERA. George Fox took two of three games from Whitworth last season when the teams met in Newberg at this same time of year.
Plenty of Pitching: Whitworth has used ten pitchers in 2017, showing the overall depth of the staff, and the Pirates have a team ERA of 3.82. Five different players have picked up the six victories so far, and two other players have earned the two saves.
Makeup Plan: Whitworth should be able to make up all of the games lost at the NWC Oregon Classic that was rained out the first weekend in February. Since all four scheduled contests were against NWC opponents, the Pirates plan to play a fourth, non-conference game against Lewis & Clark, Pacific Lutheran, George Fox and Linfield at the conclusion of the regularly-scheduled three-game conference series throughout the season.
The Coach: Dan Ramsay has led the Bucs to the NCAA Division III tournament three times (2012, 2015, 2016) and was named Northwest Conference Coach of the Year in 2012 and 2016 and West Region Coach of the Year by D3baseball.com and the ABCA in 2012. Ramsay, now in his ninth season coaching Whitworth, earned his 150th career victory during the 2016 season. He is 159-164 overall.
In his eight years at Whitworth Ramsay has coached a First Team All-American and two Third Team All-Americans, 21 All-Northwest Conference selections, ten ABCA All-West Region selections, one Academic All-American and four Academic All-District selections, one conference batting champion, one West Region Gold Glove Award winner, one Rawlings Gold Glove National Award winner, and has had three players sign professional contracts.