Whitworth Wins! Pirates Clinch Share of NWC Crown

Jason Renner is somewhere at the bottom of the pile after earning his seventh save (Jeff Ferguson)
Jason Renner is somewhere at the bottom of the pile after earning his seventh save (Jeff Ferguson)

SPOKANE, Wash. – The Sunday magic struck again. Whitworth held on for an 8-7 win over visiting Whitman on Sunday, clinching a share of the 2012 Northwest Conference baseball championship and giving the Pirates the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament.

Whitworth, now 9-0-1 in games played on Sunday this season, improved to 26-13-1 overall and 19-5 in the NWC.  The Pirates tied Pacific (22-15, 19-5) for the 2012 NWC championship and also tied the school record for most wins in one season.  The Bucs went 26-14 in 1989.

Whitworth earned its first conference crown since 1991 and will make its first postseason appearance since the 1992 NAIA District 1 playoffs.  This will be the Pirates' first trip to the NCAA Division III tournament.

Whitman (5-34, 5-19) made the Pirates work for this win to the bitter end, scoring three runs in the eighth inning to pull within a run and getting the tying run on second base with two outs in the ninth before Jason Renner got Chris Konolige to fly out to left field to end the game.

The Pirates, picked sixth in the 2012 NWC Preseason Poll, celebrated with the traditional dog pile near the pitcher's mound.

Whitworth, starting six freshmen and sophomores on Sunday, showed its nerves throughout the game.  The Bucs committed a season-high four errors.  One of those led to an unearned run for the Missionaries in the top of the first inning.

But the Pirates scored single runs in each of the first three innings to take a 3-1 advantage.  Gerhard Muelheims singled up the middle in the second to give Whitworth its first lead and Joshua Davis added an RBI single in the third.

Whitworth starting pitcher C.J. Perry went 4.0 innings and was pulled after Whitman's Jimmy Madden doubled to put runners on second and third with no outs in the fifth.  However Taylor Isadore came on in relief to get two strikeouts and a pop up to end the threat without a run scoring.

But the Missionaries got to Isadore in the sixth.  Three straight singles loaded the bases, and with one out, Cameron Young doubled to left to drive in two runs that tied the game.  After a ground ball back to Isadore and an intentional walk to Kyle Moyes, the bases were loaded for Aaron Cohen who drew a base on balls that forced in the go-ahead run.  Spencer Ansett came in to get the final out of the inning.

Whitworth appeared to retake control of the game with five runs in the bottom of the sixth.  Nick Motsinger singled in Davis to tie the game.  After a wild pitch and a walk, Jake Nelson relieved Spencer Hobson on the mound and Nelson balked in the go-ahead run for the Pirates.  Tyler Pfeffer walked and Landon Scott singled in Muelheims.  JR Jarrell drove in his second run of the game with a ground out to second base and Paul Miller drove in the Pirates' final run with a single to left.

Whitman hit Ansett hard in the eighth inning.  Konolige homered to left leading off the inning to pull the Missionaries within 8-5.  Following two harmless flyouts, Moyes reached on an error.  Cohen then drilled his fourth home run of the season over the left field wall for two unearned runs that got Whitman within 8-7. 

Renner started the ninth on the mound for Whitworth looking to extend his school record for saves in a season to seven.  MacLean Harned led off with a walk, but Renner got Eli Mathieu to ground into a 4-6-3 double play.  Jonny Chow then doubled to centerfield, but Renner closed out the game by getting Konolige to pop up to Pfeffer in left field.

Ansett got the win in relief to improve to 7-3 this season.  He pitched 2.1 innings and allowed three runs (one earned) on two hits.

Nelson (1-7) took the loss in relief of Hobson, who went 5.1 innings and allowed six runs on seven hits.  Brett Lambert pitched two hitless innings for Whitman.

Motsinger, Scott and Davis all had a pair of hits for the Pirates.  Jarrell led the Bucs with two RBIs despite not getting a hit.  Motsinger scored twice for Whitworth.

Chow's three hits led Whitman.  The Missionaries outhit the Pirates 10-9, but left 13 runners on base in the game.

Whitworth will play in the NCAA Division III West Regional at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon on May 16-20.  The field for that regional, and the entire tournament, will be announced on May 14th.