by Michelle Silva | Staff Writer
The 2016 Whitworth baseball team began their season facing the third-ranked school in the nation, Emory University.
Down by four runs through the sixth inning, the Pirates were in an offensive battle and made a comeback at the bottom of the seventh inning. A 7-7 at the bottom of the ninth sent the game into extra innings.
In the bottom of the 10th inning then-junior Anthony Bonilla entered as a pinch-hitter and led off with a double to the right-center gap.
With Bonilla standing on second-base, the next pinch-hitter was Ryan Bird. Bird came in clutch with a walk-off double over the left-fielder’s head that scored Bonilla and earned the Pirates the big win.
The coaching staff knew that mental toughness would help bring in the winning run. Assistant coach CJ Perry works alongside transfer students at Whitworth. He said this game was the perfect time to show their “toughness factor.”
Bird and Bonilla are only two of the nine transfer players on the baseball team.
“It’s good to have that veteran presence of them,” Perry said.
While head coach Dan Ramsay does a lot of recruiting, Perry is also working behind the scenes as a transfer counselor. Working in Whitworth’s admissions office since 2012, Perry is knowledgeable about the process that transfer students encounter.
To help ease the transition Perry said “It’s important to book meetings with the student’s advisors and coaches.”
Transfer players have a lot to offer on and off the field because “they each bring something a little different,” Perry said.
Current seniors on the team Bird and Bonilla were both recruited by Perry while playing for their previous school, Wenatchee Valley College. With two years of college ball under their belts, they had a lot to offer to the Pirate baseball team, Perry said.
Transfer players like Bird and Bonilla arrive to Whitworth mentally and physically prepared for the busy schedule of a student-athlete. Connor Sand, a sophomore on the baseball team, said Bird and Bonilla bring in different talents and perspectives to the team
“I like to lead by example rather than being vocal by taking what I learned from another place for two years,” says Bird.
Junior Joel Condreay has been part of the baseball team for three years. Adding transfer players to the baseball team contributed largely to the program’s success because of their diversity, Condreay said.
“The coaches have done an excellent job of bringing in transfers that both help us on the field and fit into our program’s culture,” Condreay said. “Our conference championship last year, and the rest of our successes over the last few seasons, can be attributed in large part to the contributions of transfers.”
Team members transferred in from various locations. Senior Jacob Yamane came from a school in Plainview, Texas and fellow senior Daniel Casanova originally played in Dubuque, Iowa.
“All of us having those different experiences with coaches and teams helps us come together and figure out what’s going on,” Bonilla said.
Bonilla mentioned the comfort that comes with being a transfer student-athlete. He says that having prior experiences helped prepare him for big moments like the Emory game.
“It’s easier from a leadership standpoint, because we step up and help out the team,” Bonilla said.
In their 2016 season the Pirates faced Pacific University in a nail-biting series. The transfers came in clutch at the bottom of game one’s eighth inning. Similar to Emory, Bird was chosen to pinch hit once again.
With two outs, Bird drove a double down the left-field line advancing the tying run to third-base. Condreay proceeded with a single where Bird came around to score as the game-winning run.
The Bucs will need to pull on that same magic this weekend against Pacific on April 14 and 15. The team will face Pacific at home for their senior weekend, and the Bucs need a sweep to make the Northwest Conference tournament. The seniors being celebrated include transfer players Bonilla, Bird, Yamane and Casanova.