SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth stayed alive in the chase for the Northwest Conference baseball playoffs by sweeping visiting Pacific (Ore.) 12-5 and 7-3 on Friday afternoon at Merkel Field.
The Pirates improved to 21-13 overall and 11-12 in the NWC. More importantly, the Bucs moved within a half game of Whitman College (11-11 NWC) in the chase for the fourth and final conference tournament spot.
The Pirates and Boxers (13-20, 7-16 NWC) will complete the series with a single game on Saturday at noon. In order to make the NWC tournament, Whitworth needs to win the series finale and hope that Whitman is swept by Linfield in that doubleheader.
Game 1 – Whitworth 12, Pacific 5
The Pirates rallied from behind twice and broke the game open with seven runs in the bottom of the seventh to claim Friday's opener.
Whitworth was the first team this season to get to Pacific starting pitcher Spencer Backstrom, who came into the game leading the NWC in earned run average (1.14). But the Pirates tagged Backstrom for eight runs (six earned) on nine hits in six innings. Backstrom, who fell to 3-2, had only allowed six earned runs all season prior to today's game.
Pacific jumped ahead 2-0 in the top of the first on RBI doubles from Joey Galeno and Dylan Wright. But Whitworth starting pitcher Matthew Young was able to limit the damage to those two runs after getting out of a jam with two runners in scoring position and only one out.
The Pirates did not get a hit off of Backstrom until the fourth inning. But Nicholas Nerud led off the frame with a single and scored on Nelson's home run to right field, which tied the game.
The Boxers retook the lead 3-2 on Wright's RBI single in the top of the fifth. Whitworth scored three in the bottom of the sixth to take the lead for good. JT Phelan had a two-run single and Jordan McGowan singled to drive in Phelan.
The Pirates broke the game open in the seventh with seven runs. Bailey had a two run single, as did Phelan, who finished with four RBIs in the game. Nerud batted twice in the inning and singled twice, the second time driving in a run.
Drew Fagerness had a two-run, pinch hit double for Pacific in the ninth.
Young improved to 5-2 this season after allowing five runs on 11 hits in 8.2 innings of work. He struck out six Boxers and walked one.
Game 2 – Whitworth 7, Pacific 3
Darren Crosby shut down the Boxers with 6.2 innings of stellar relief pitching and the Pirates took advantage of four Pacific errors to sweep the doubleheader.
Whitworth scored in the first when Phelan drew a bases-loaded walk.
The Boxers scored two in the third to take a brief lead. Kurtis Kloke was hit by a pitch from Pirate starter Hugh Smith with the bases loaded, driving in the first run. Brandon Henderson's RBI single drove Smith from the game. Crosby came on in relief with the bases still loaded and only one out in the third. He struck out the next two batters to end the threat.
The Pirates added an unearned run in the third to tie the game, then took a 4-2 lead in the fourth. McGowan doubled with one out. He was held at third on Joel Condreay's single, but was able to come home when that single got by the left fielder. Later, with runners on the corners, Garrett Hughes laid down a perfect bunt that was unplayable by the defense, driving in Condreay.
Pacific pulled within 4-3 in the fifth when Wright tripled to right with two outs and scored on Henderson's second RBI single of the game.
The Pirates pulled away with three runs in the bottom of the sixth. Nelson drew a bases-loaded walk and Bailey followed with a two-run single.
Crosby improved to 2-1 this season after allowing one run on four hits over the final 6.2 innings. He struck out eight batters and walked none. Smith allowed two runs on five hits over the first 2.1 innings of the game.
Paul Wolfram started on the mound for Pacific and fell to 4-6 after giving up seven runs (five earned) on 11 hits in 5.1 innings.