SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth University baseball team returns to a normal schedule this week as the Pirates host Linfield College in a three-game Northwest Conference series at Merkel Field on Saturday and Sunday.
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.
Sunday is also the final home game for the Bucs. Whitworth's seven seniors will be recognized prior to the game.
The Pirates: Whitworth heads into the final two conference weekends with a 9-9 league record. The Bucs are currently tied with four teams for fourth place in the tightly packed standings, one game behind second place Linfield and Whitman. With six teams separated by a single game, the race for spots in the four-team NWC tournament gets hotter these final two weekends.
The Pirates come into the weekend with a team batting average of .268 and a team ERA of 4.24. Whitworth (14-15 overall) took two of three games at Lewis & Clark last weekend to finish the week 2-2.
Coming off a heart-breaking 2-1 loss at Whitman on Tuesday, the Pirates needed a strong start to the series at L&C and got it with a 5-1 victory. Hugh Smith threw eight dominating innings to improve to 5-0 this season. He allowed one unearned run on five hits while striking out 12 Pioneers and walking only one. Liam Fitzpatrick and Nicholas Nerud, the top two batters in the lineup, scored two runs each.
Whitworth took Saturday's second game 8-0 as Brady Simmelink and T.J. Orchard combined for the Pirates' third shutout of the season. Simmelink threw 6.1 innings and allowed only three hits. Orchard finished up with 2.2 innings of hitless relief that included six strikeouts. Tyler Bailey went 4-5 with two RBIs and a run scored, while Dalen Hainline hit a three-run homer.
Lewis & Clark salvaged the series finale on Sunday with a 3-2 victory over the Pirates. Bailey hit a two-run homer in the top of the first inning, but that was all the runs the Bucs would get. Matthew Young allowed only three runs on seven hits in five innings, but still suffered the loss. Brett Thomas threw three innings of shutout relief to keep Whitworth close.
Huge: Whitworth starting RHP Hugh Smith is having a dominating season. He leads the league in earned run average (1.66) and in winning percentage (5-0). He has 48 strikeouts in 44 innings pitched and ranks second in strikeouts per game (9.82).
The Opponents: Linfield College comes into the weekend 16-14 overall and 10-8 in the NWC. The Wildcats are talented and were picked first in the NWC preseason coaches poll. Last weekend Linfield took two of three games from Pacific (Ore.) to move into a tie for second place in the NWC standings. The Wildcats are hitting .291 as a team and averaging 6.2 runs per game. The team ERA is 4.25. Senior LHP Carter Buuck is 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA, while junior LHP Cason Cunningham, an All-NWC honoree in 2017, is 5-4 with an NWC-best 64 strikeouts. Senior IF Ryan Ross is hitting .357 with five home runs, eight doubles and 23 RBIs. Last season Whitworth and Linfield played six times and the Wildcats won four of the games. Linfield swept the regular season three-game series, but Whitworth upset the top-seeded 'Cats in the first round of the NWC tournament. Linfield won the tournament rematch to eliminate the Pirates.
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 head to Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon for the final NWC weekend of 2018 on April 14-15.