SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth University baseball team heads west for a showdown between the two hottest teams in the Northwest Conference this weekend. The Pirates play at Pacific Lutheran in a match-up of squads coming off conference sweeps.
The teams will play at doubleheader on Saturday, beginning at Noon. They will play a single game on Sunday at noon. Watch the Whitworth baseball schedule for live links to this weekend's action.
The Pirates: Whitworth made a statement to the rest of the Northwest Conference by sweeping 18th-ranked George Fox in dominating fashion over the weekend at Merkel Field. The Pirates outscored the Bruins 24-4 and got excellent pitching, solid defense and timely hitting in all three contests.
Whitworth set the tone with Saturday's 10-3 win in the series opener. The Bucs broke open a tight contest with four runs in the fourth inning and five more in the sixth. Liam Fitzpatrick homered, doubled and drove in four runs. Taylor Poffenroth also had a home run among his four hits. JT Phelan added a three-run homer. Hugh Smith improved to 3-0 this season with 6.1 strong innings, allowing two earned runs on four hits. Jake Briones tossed 2.2 innings of shutout relief.
Brady Simmelink never let George Fox bats get comfortable in Whitworth's 7-0 win in the second game. He threw seven shutout innings, striking out ten batters and allowing only two hits to improve to 2-1. He struck out five of the first six batters he saw. Joel Crosby closed with two innings of one-hit relief. Tyler Bailey had a two-run double, while Joel Condreay, Phelan, Ben Wintringer and Ian Sugrue had two hits apiece.
Whitworth pulled away late to claim the finale 7-1. Matthew Young (3-2) was dominant on the hill, throwing the Pirates' first complete game of the season. He allowed only one run on three hits, striking out six and walking none. Condreay and Wintringer drove in two runs each, while Fitzpatrick and Poffenroth scored two runs each.
Whitworth swept George Fox in a regular season NWC series for the second year in a row.
Strong-Arming the Opposition: Whitworth pitchers have separated themselves from the pack in the Northwest Conference. The Pirates lead the league in virtually every pitching category. They rank first in:
ERA – 3.33
B.A. Against - .227
Hits / 9 Inn Allowed – 7.51
BB / 9 Inn Allowed – 3.09
WHIP – 1.18
Shutouts - 2
The Opponents: Pacific Lutheran comes into the weekend 9-8 overall and 7-2 in the NWC. The Lutes are coming off a three-game sweep at Pacific (Ore.), rallying from a 9-4 deficit to win the finale 11-10 in 11 innings. Lute pitchers rank second in the NWC in ERA (3.89) and opponents' batting average (.250). Junior IF Jacob Bockelie is hitting .414 with three home runs and 21 RBIs. He has also walked 15 times and has a .551 on-base percentage. Senior Cole Johnson has been one of the NWC's most versatile players his entire career. Like Bockelie, Johnson has three home runs and 21 RBIs and has four starts as a pitcher. Sophomore hurler Chad Gideon is 4-2 with a 2.52 ERA and a team-high 27 strikeouts. Last season PLU came to Spokane 14-2 and dominated the Pirates in two games on Saturday. Whitworth rebounded to win twice on Sunday. The fourth game was a non-conference affair.
Early-Season Showdown: With Whitworth at 5-1 and PLU at 7-2, this weekend marks an early-season showdown between the first and second place teams in the NWC standings. But things can change in only one weekend's time. George Fox (8-4) was alone in first place heading into last weekend before the Bruins were swept by Whitworth.
The Coach: CJ Perry is in his first year as the Pirates' head coach. He spent several years as an assistant on the staff. Perry is a former Whitworth player who graduated in 2012 as an honorable mention All-Northwest Conference honoree. He received his CSCS certification through the NSCA in 2015.
Coming up: Whitworth will host Whitman in a doubleheader on Tuesday, March 20th, then will host Puget Sound in a three-game set on March 24-25.