by Mak Karge, Sports Information Assistant
SPOKANE, Wash. - The Whitworth Pirates will be at home this weekend against George Fox as the two hottest teams in the Northwest Conference square off at Merkel Field. The Bucs are coming off sweeps at Pacific (Ore.) and Willamette in back-to-back weekends, which propelled them to second place in the league standings. This weekend's series will also be the first home games of 2019 for Whitworth.
Watch the Pirates' baseball schedule for live links to this weekend's games.
The Pirates: Whitworth is 10-9 overall, 7-2 in the NWC after a dominant performance against Willamette last weekend. In the three game series, the Pirates led throughout the first two games and showed grit coming back from an early 5-0 deficit to complete the series sweep.
In the first game, the Pirates lit up the scoreboard in a 12-4 victory. Five Pirates nabbed a pair of RBIs (Ben Wintringer, Taylor Poffenroth, Tyler Bailey, Liam Fitzpatrick, and Cody Simmons). Austin Rice earned his first win of the season, pitching 6.2 innings with five strikeouts.
The Pirates used strong defense and pitching to win the second game 3-1. Matthew Young threw 7.0 innings and allowed only two walks and one run, to improve to 4-2 this season. Brett Thomas closed out the game with three strikeouts in two innings, earning the save. Whitworth ended the game with a 4-6-3 double play then struck out the last batter swinging. Poffenroth had another pair of RBIs.
Willamette strung together five hits for five runs and a first inning 5-0 lead in the series finale. Starting pitcher Ryan Kingma settled down and did not allow another run in 5.1 innings. He gave his teammates an opportunity to come back and picked up his fourth victory of the spring. Matthew Pulliam and Connor Grytdal worked together shut down Willamette, allowing only two hits and one walk over the final 3.2 innings. Meanwhile, the Pirates scored nine runs, with the help of Spencer Locati's three doubles, for a 9-5 win.
Whitworth leads the conference with a .979 fielding percentage. The Pirates are second in team batting average (.290) and in team ERA (4.26). They have scored 118 runs while only hitting two home runs, the fewest dingers in the conference.
Poffenroth is fourth in the conference in batting average, hitting an impressive .383. Nicholas Nerud is third (tied) in the NWC with nine stolen bases while Wintringer in fifth (tied) with eight.
The Opponents: The George Fox Bruins are 14-6 overall and 10-2 in the NWC coming off back-to-back-to-back sweeps in the NWC. They've won nine straight conference games and ten games in a row overall while leading the league in team batting average (.329).
Matt Voelzke is batting a scorching .410 for the Bruins with a pair of triples and home runs in 20 games. Christopher Stone leads the Bruins with five wins in six appearances, totaling 29 strikeouts in 36 innings.
Last season the Bruins went 25-19 (13-11 NWC). The Pirates swept GFU, winning 10-3, 7-0, 7-1 at Merkel Field.
The Coach: CJ Perry is in his second season as head coach of the Pirates, after serving five seasons as an assistant coach. He had two players taken in the major league draft in 2018, pitcher Hugh Smith in the sixth round by the DePtroit Tigers and shortstop Joel Condreay selected in the 31st round by the Colorado Rockies. As pitching coach in 2016, Perry's staff led all of NCAA Div. III in walks allowed per nine innings (2.07) and posted a team ERA of 3.95.