Katelyn McLean | Sports Editor
The Pirates won their first game of Northwest Conference play 3-2 over Whitman College on Sunday, Feb. 27, but lost their second game of the doubleheader 4-1.
Whitworth won their season opener 12-5 on Feb. 4 but lost the next nine straight games.
The Pirates were supposed to open their Northwest Conference season at home, but the game was moved to Whitman due to unplayable conditions at Merkel Field. The teams were originally scheduled to play two games on Saturday and one on Sunday, but because of inclement weather in Walla Walla, they only played two games on Sunday.
“The only thing that sucked was going down to Whitman for a home series…[It’s] never something that you want to do. Also leaving and playing on the same day is never ideal, but we made it work and we were able to take one,” senior outfielder Jaxsen Sweum said.
The team left Sunday morning at 7 a.m. to drive to Whitman, played at noon, played again at around 3:30 p.m., and then returned to Whitworth around 10:30 p.m. that night.
“We did have a series against Lewis-Clark State where we did have to do that for both days, so it was good that we understood what we needed to do in terms of preparing while we’re on the bus mentally before we got off,” Sweum said.
Whitworth batted as the home team while at Whitman to adjust for the location change.
“Once we got there, we kind of moved past the fact that we weren’t at [Merkel Field] and it was down to business – time to play baseball, time to win,” Sweum said. “Sports are sports, and the game is played the same way at every single field, so we don’t have to worry about that too much.”
Starting pitcher Hunter Dryden no-hit the Blues for five innings, and the Pirate offense got off to a quick start, scoring in both the first and the fifth innings when Sweum singled and drove in Doughty, following it up by reaching first on an error that drove in Warner.
Dryden’s no-hit bid ended on a solo homerun in the sixth inning to get the Blues on the board.
A Warner single drove in the final Whitworth run in the sixth inning.
Whitman tacked on a final run in the ninth when Michael Doyle was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
“We were able to be active with our approach and trust it, and that was the difference between game one and game two,” Sweum said. “It was more of a mental thing more than anything, because we’re all able to play at a high level and do really good things.”
Moving forward, Sweum is hopeful that the team can focus on their approach, trusting themselves and each other to be more successful and avoid future skids.
“I think continuing to stay upbeat no matter what the situation is because we’re able to come back from any sort of deficit – then obviously, staying on top of each other and being able to rally around our guys and, if one person fails, the next person immediately picking them up.”
Despite the rough non-conference opening to the season, the expectation as the NWC season gets started is clear.
“Watch the Bucs win a lot of baseball games. That’s really it,” Sweum said.
Whitworth hits the road to play a three-game series with Linfield at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 5, and at noon on Sunday, March 6. A livestream and stats will be available on whitworthpirates.com, and results will be posted on the Whitworthian Weekly Scoreboard on our website.