From rags to riches: Whitworth baseball’s comeback

By Kaitlyn McConnell | Staff Writer

Pitcher Aidan Smith (center) talks to his catcher Aaron Clogston (right) after a mound visit by head coach CJ Perry (left) at an NCAA baseball game against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Saturday, Apr. 6, 2024, at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash. | Caleb Flegel/The Whitworthian

Whitworth University baseball established its place in 2024 with a 12-game winning streak to start off the season. Coach CJ Perry and assistant coach Cash Ulrich credited the team’s success to their focus on the “mental game.” After three years of losing records, this season could mark a critical pivot for Whitworth baseball.  

The last two years of baseball at Whitworth have not been notable, with the team facing losses and division in the team community. “The past two years have been like the hardest years of baseball for me, for sure. [It] made me lose the love for the game a little bit,” said Aidan Morrison, a Whitworth senior.

As recruitment began for the 2024 season, the coaching staff saw hope for a different type of season.  

“The work ethic in the fall was through the roof. The freshman recruiting class Coach Perry brought in was strong; there [were] eight to 10 freshmen that bumped our floor, meaning practices [were] competitive. So, when you do not get comfortable and you have to work hard every single day, it just elevates the play of that of yourself and then the people around you as well,” said Ulrich.

Morrison also highlighted the team’s mental progression. “I think the biggest thing we lacked like the past three years is just confidence. We had almost zero confidence because, even though I don’t think this team is that much different from years past in terms of power players, I think it’s honestly just [that] we really lacked a culture [with] core values,” said Morrison.

These values hold a lot more value than the game itself. “While this will lead you to being a successful baseball player, it also will lead you to be successful at whatever else you decide to put your mind to. Like making good decisions, being present, doing things that you can control to the best of your ability and understanding how to compartmentalize failure,” said Perry.

A lot of great teams contain core values, confidence and a competitive roster, but Whitworth does not stop there. Ulrich said the team’s secret weapon this season is called the mental game.  

“In baseball, you have five physical tools or things that you’re good at that these scouts are looking for, but sometimes the six tools get left alone, which is your mental game,” said Ulrich.

The mental aspect is not just a goal for the Whitworth baseball team; it is a practice. “You know when we face adversity […] we are able to press pause because of some of the training we have done in the mental game, use the six tools and then respond on the line. I would say we are a six-tool program and there [are] not that many six tool baseball programs in college baseball,” said Ulrich.

Morrison added that the team practices use this tool through breathing practices, mindfulness and even envisioning success.

So, what is next for these former underdogs? Morrison spoke about his team goals as a senior. “National championships is always the goal in mind for sure. I had it written up on a whiteboard since I got into college. So obviously that is always the goal. The main goal would just be seeing this team when they fully reach the ceiling,” said Morrison.

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