by Matt Spencer
Whitworth’s baseball team took two games of the three game series at Willamette this weekend, clinching the Northwest Conference regular season crown. After a tough 8-7 extra inning loss in game one, the Pirates upended the Bearcats 7-2 in the nightcap and 3-2 on Sunday.
The first game was a dramatic one as both teams gave up sizable leads late in the game. After leading 4-3 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, Willamette had two walks and a hit batter come around to score courtesy of the double by Ty Wyatt. The Pirates’ last chance at the plate resulted in a string of three runs to take the lead.
But the Bearcats responded tying the game before going on to win the first game in the tenth inning, 8-7.
Whitworth coach Dan Ramsay told his players not to let the first game get to his team.
“We showed a lot of fight that game but just had some things that didn’t go our way,” Ramsay says.
On Saturday, the Pirates responded well. Freshman Ryan Kingma (7-2) picked up the victory throwing eight innings of one run baseball and allowing only three hits and two walks.
Collectively, the Pirates had a batting average of .321 over the weekend and added four home runs to the team total. Senior Jeremey Druffel had an especially productive weekend, finishing seven for 14 with three doubles and three RBIs.
That game helped promise Whitworth at least a share of the conference title and the hosting of the tournament at Merkel Field.
Sophomore TJ Orchard started Sunday’s rubber match, seeking to claim the conference title outright. The game started off rocky when Whitworth fell to 2-0 in the first. The Bearcats led through six innings.
“I was a little jumpy in the first inning and missed a couple of spots,” Orchard said. “I ended up shutting the door by getting my pitches where I wanted them, low in the zone.”
Orchard (6-1) held the Bearcats scoreless for the next seven innings allowing Whitworth to take a 3-2 on a Druffel RBI. With that, the Pirates were able to hold on and take the regular season title on their own.
Winning the conference crown was an awesome feeling, especially considering the changes the team underwent in the off season losing a lot of seniors, Druffel said.
“Just a whole different group of guys from last year, I didn’t know what to expect coming in,” Druffel said.
This Pirate team has a blend of postseason experience and young talent which hope to make them a tough opponent in conference play opening up this Friday, April 22.
Whitworth will take on the Pacific Boxers at noon in their home ballpark, Merkel Field.
Coach Ramsay is already looking forward to the weekend action.
“There is going to be some good baseball,” Ramsay said. “Everyone is fighting for the opportunity to go into postseason play. It’s going to be fun.”