SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth baseball team will finally get to play at home this weekend. The Pirates are hoping that the momentum created by three wins on the road last weekend will carry over as first place Pacific Lutheran makes a visit to Merkel Field for a four-game series. Only the first three games will be Northwest Conference counters. 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 broke a five-game conference losing streak by winning three games at George Fox University last weekend. The Pirates are now 9-6 overall and 3-5 (5th place) in the NWC. The team is batting .252 and has a 3.52 ERA.
Whitworth won the GFU series opener 5-3 thanks to a three-run rally in the top of the seventh inning that broke a 2-2 tie. Jordan McGowan and Matthew Nelson each hit home runs for the Bucs. Nelson's home run was his fifth of the year, which is tied for the lead in the NWC. Joel Condreay added a pair of RBIs in the game for Whitworth. Hugh Smith improved to 2-2 this year by pitching a complete-game four-hitter with seven strikeouts.
The Pirates rolled to a 9-2 win in the second game thanks to another big seventh inning. Whitworth scored seven runs in the top of the seventh, including a grand slam by McGowan, to open up a 9-0 lead. Nicholas Nerud had three hits in the game, while Garrett Hughes went 2-4 with two runs scored. Ryan Kingma gave Whitworth back-to-back complete-game pitching efforts, improving to 3-0 after scattering nine hits with four strikeouts and only one walk.
Nelson had a two-run double and Ryan Bird added a two-run single to lead the Pirates to a 5-2 victory over the Bruins on Sunday in the series finale. Nelson increased his season RBI total to 21, which is tied for the lead in the NWC. Bird finished the game 3-4 at the plate. Matthew Young pitched six strong innings to earn his first win as a Pirate. Darren Crosby tossed three innings of shutout relief to pick up his second save of the year.
The final, non-conference game of the series was cancelled.
The Opponents: Pacific Lutheran University comes into the weekend as the hottest team in the NWC. The Lutes are 12-3 overall and 10-2 in the league, alone atop the conference standings. PLU is hitting .283 as a team and has posted a league-leading team ERA of 3.00. A pair of seniors lead the Lutes at the plate. Landon Packard is hitting .387 with three doubles, three triples and a team-high 18 RBIs. Kory VanderStay is batting .396 with three home runs and 14 RBIs. But a freshman has been the top pitcher. Chad Gideon is 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 31.1 innings. Whitworth and PLU played each other six times last season. The Pirates took two of three from the Lutes during the regular season on the way to a Northwest Conference title. But PLU had the upper hand in the post-season, beating Whitworth twice during the NWC tournament and once at the NCAA Division III regional in Spokane.
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 3.52. Six different players have picked up the nine victories so far, led by sophomore Ryan Kingma (3-0).
Makeup Plan: Whitworth should be able to make up most 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.