SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitman College rallied from a 6-2 deficit to pull out an 8-7 victory over Whitworth University in the final game of the 2019 Northwest Conference baseball tournament on Sunday afternoon at Merkel Field. Whitworth forced the final game with a 9-6 win over the Blues in the teams' first match up on Sunday.
With the win Whitman (23-17) earns the NWC's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs. The Pirates (24-14) must hope for an at-large bid to the national tournament.
Whitworth first had to make it to the championship round by holding off Pacific University 6-3 on Sunday morning in the resumption of a game suspended by darkness on Saturday night with the game heading to the eighth inning. Connor Grytdal had little trouble recording the final six outs to secure his third save of the year. Ryan Kingma, Saturday's starting pitcher, improved to 7-3.
Needing to win twice against Whitman on Sunday, Whitworth turned to a pair of familiar faces on the mound in the first game. Brett Thomas and Matthew Young, the two Whitworth pitchers in Friday's victory over Pacific Lutheran, reversed order in the 9-6 victory in Sunday's early game.
Whitman grabbed an early 3-0 lead, including a pair of first inning runs off of Thomas, who started this game. The Pirates began their rally in the third inning with two runs against Eric Ma, who was making his third pitching appearance of the weekend for the Blues. Whitworth took control of the game with six runs in the fourth, capped by Taylor Poffenroth's two-run home run that gave the Bucs an 8-3 lead.
Young took over on the mound in the fourth inning and went the rest of the way to pick up the win. On only one day's rest, he gave up three runs on seven hits over six innings with four strikeouts and no walks to improve to 9-3 this season.
David Johnson was 4-5 with four RBIs for Whitman. Ma allowed eight runs in 3.2 innings and fell to 7-2.
That set up the tournament's winner-take-all game late in the afternoon.
Whitworth jumped out to a 6-2 lead after four innings, thanks to a four-run rally in the fourth. All four runs came with two outs, beginning with a Cody Simmons home run. Nerud added a two-run single and the fourth run scored on a throwing error.
Whitman got within 6-5 by scoring three in the fifth, including another RBI base hit by Johnson.
Joe Howell's RBI double scored Simmons in the bottom of the fifth, but that's the only earned run Whitworth would score against Whitman's Travis Craven, who matched Young's performance from the day before. Coming on in relief of starter Charlie Carmichael, the Blues' day one starter went the final 5.2 innings and allowed only five hits and two runs to pick up his second pitching victory of the tournament. Craven improved to 6-5.
Whitman tied the game in the sixth on an RBI double from Lucas Thrun and a run-scoring single from Kyle Reisman.
Reisman's RBI single in the eighth inning proved to be the game-winner as Craven did not allow a hit in either the eighth or ninth innings. Reisman finished the game 4-5 with the two RBIs.
Simmons and Isa had two hits each for the Bucs. Led by starter Timothy Bever, four players appeared on the mound for the Pirates.
Whitworth will close the 2019 regular season with three non-conference games in Tacoma next weekend against NWC rivals PLU, Puget Sound and Whitman.