Coach of the Year: Helen Higgs- Women's basketball

With 20 years of Whitworth coaching experience behind her, women’s basketball head coach Helen Higgs led the Pirates in a season of success, including winning the NWC tournament against No. 1-ranked Whitman, which earned Higgs the title of The Whitworthian Coach of the Year. Higgs made her mark on Whitworth as she became the longest-serving women’s basketball coach, amassing the most wins in Pirate history.

With a career coaching record of 284-199 entering the season, Higgs and her team began the 2013-2014 season with high standards and big expectations.

“Our goals were to do more than we did the year before, which was finish third and make the NCAA tournament,” Higgs said.

In order to obtain their goals, the seniors chose the word “believe” as the season’s theme, Higgs said.

“We can do great things and we want to believe that we can do great things, but we also have fun and laugh at the obstacles while pushing through them,” Higgs said.

The season started rough due to injuries in which senior guard Kayla Johnson had to miss the first game because of a bad ankle sprain and junior Kendra Knutsen had limited minutes from previous knee issues, Higgs said.

“Our first game was against a team that wasn’t great and we barely won,” Higgs said. “I had to start two people out of position and we didn’t have our senior leader [Johnson] who usually ends up scoring 19 points a game.”

As the season went on, the Pirates picked up momentum with two separate seven-game winning streaks. As part of the second streak, Higgs became the first women’s basketball coach to reach her 300th career win at Whitworth, against Pacific Lutheran University.

“There is no way [Higgs] would say her 300th win was her biggest season highlight because she is very modest and team-oriented but it was a big moment for her,” assistant coach Heather Bowman said.

One of the biggest highlights for Higgs was in the NWC Tournament championship game during which the Pirates played against Whitman, then undefeated and top-ranked team in the nation, to consecutively win the conference title on Whitman’s home court, Higgs said.

“We are a pretty self-motivating team, but before the Whitman game, [Higgs] rapped for us and her quirkiness got us pumped up,” Johnson said. “During a timeout in around the last two minutes of the Whitman game the same song [Timber by Pitbull featuring Ke$ha] came on and she was telling us that it was fate that we would win the game since it was the song she rapped to us before.”

The Pirates entered the NCAA tournament against George Fox University and came away with a 20-point win in the first round.

“[Higgs] has confidence in us and you can see that in the way she coaches and directs us,” Johnson said. “She has never doubted us.”

A six-point loss to Whitman in the second round of the NCAA Tournament ended the season for the Pirates.

Higgs brings laughter and fun to the sport while keeping up the intensity. She is not only a coach on the court, but outside of the game as well, Johnson said.

“[Higgs] does a very good job of keeping the team balanced by pushing the girls on and off the court,” Bowman said. “She makes sure that they are academically, personally and aesthetically improving themselves.”

Higgs does not attribute all of the success from the season to herself, but rather to her fellow coaches and the players on the team, Higgs said.

“I think valuing your coaching staff, figuring out what they do well and giving them some freedom in that, is what really helps to make a team stronger and be more successful,” Higgs said. “We were successful because I had a great coaching staff.”

After another successful season, Higgs assures that with her competitive nature, winning will always be a part of the program, Higgs said.

“But it is more about striving for excellence and teaching individuals how to excel not only in sports but in every place in life,” Higgs said. “That’s my bigger goal, to teach those life lessons, and if you do that well and have the talent, then the winning part will take care of itself.”

Jordanne Perry Staff Writer

Female Athlete of the Year: Kerry Wright- Women's track and field

As a middle child with an older and a younger brother, sophomore Kerry Wright grew up in a climate of ongoing competition. Wright recalled how she and her brothers played baseball in her family’s backyard. It is a continuation of her competitive drive that has helped Wright make Whitworth track and field history in the javelin throw, awarding her The Whitworthian’s Female Athlete of the Year. Wright attended Portland State University for a quarter after high school, but transferred to Whitworth for the spring semester of her freshman year. She has now qualified for nationals for the second year in a row and finished second nationally as a freshman.

This season, Wright threw her best mark at the conference championships with a throw of 156’ 2’’, just shy of her personal goal of 160’ for the season. The mark set new records for the NWC championship meet and for the Whitworth school record.

“We have three more meets, and four more weeks until nationals, so for the next couple of weeks, she’ll get closer to there and hopefully at nationals she throws that,” head coach Toby Schwarz said. “She has a good arm, she has a great technique, very strong, her acceleration at the end of the throw is just not where it needs to be. If she had better speed, better acceleration specifically, she would throw even further.”

Wright said that she had to adjust her running techniques by taking shorter runs before her throw to get the distance mark she threw at the conference championships, she said.

“Javelin is a sport where there is a thousand things that you try to do right, so if you do even half of them right, you’re going to get a pretty big throw, whether it is footwork, timing or arm motions,” senior javelin thrower Tyler Coopman said.

Schwarz knew Wright would win conference, that she would qualify for nationals, and that she would be in the top 12 of the nation, and she is now ranked number one before going into nationals, Schwarz said.

“It took a long time for me to get up to that mark, but being able to throw that number is really satisfying,” Wright said.

Though she plans to follow the footsteps of her javelin idol Brittany Borman, a four-time NCAA Track and Field Champion, Wright’s 93-year-old grandfather has been the most inspirational person in her life, from whom she seeks guidance, Wright said.

“He’s been with track for years. He’s watched and been an official for track, and he knows the sport really really well,” Wright said. “He just supports me no matter what. He was at the conference meet [championships] and he got emotional because he was so proud. His excitement fuels me.”

During Jan Term, Wright suffered a pulled muscle in her hip, which limited her to half the amount of work compared to everyone else, Wright said. She had to go to physical therapy, and still managed to qualify for nationals.

“I just have to be able to fix that and take time off, which I am not about to. It’s not going away, but it’s definitely better because I couldn’t do drills or the technical work that I wanted to do. I had to take it really slow,” Wright said.

Coopman said that Wright sets an example for her teammates and described her as a workhorse.

“I am pretty new at this sport. I just started throwing javelin two years ago and I’m still learning a lot, but she, for all of us, is a great example to watch during practice,” Coopman said. “I learned a lot just by watching her throw because she is so technically sound.”

Wright gives a lot of credit to her javelin coach Eloise Cappellano because without her, she would have not been able to throw this far, Wright said.

“We are lucky to have [Wright] at Whitworth. She’s been a great addition to this program and is going to have an unbelievable college career,” Coopman said. “She already set the school record and is an All-American, but she’s going to continue to excel in this sport and definitely has the potential to compete after college.”

VanHoomissen said that the Whitworth coaches are there to set her up for success.

“She will be a national champion each year, I would love to see that from her, and for her marks to continue to improve that she could go to the National Championships and eventually the Olympic trials,” Cappellano said. “It’s very doable for her; she’s capable of it and is the one to make it happen.”

Jessica Razanadrakoto Staff Writer

Male Athlete of the Year: Dustin McConnell- Men's Basketball and men's tennis

Ever since he became a starter during his sophomore year, it was clear that senior point guard Dustin McConnell was on track to be a great player. In his senior year, he was recognized as such, by more than just Whitworth and the conference. After earning Northwest Conference First Team honors, as well as being named conference MVP, McConnell was voted First Team All-West Region by both D3hoops.com and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). The NABC also named him a Division III Third Team All-American. And now, The Whitworthian Male Athlete of the Year.

However, none of the accolades were on the agenda to begin the season, McConnell said.

“Knowing it’s your last year of college and playing a team sport, I just really wanted to make the most of every opportunity and not take it for granted,” McConnell said. “I wanted to enjoy the whole experience.”

McConnell did it all for the Pirates, averaging 13.4 points while leading the NWC  with 3.6 assists per game and leading the team with 1.5 steals per game. He did so while shooting an efficient 47 percent from the field, 38 percent from beyond the arc and 84 percent from the foul line.

McConnell said he sees himself as that Swiss-Army-knife type of player.

“My focus was to be the best point guard that our team needs,” McConnell said. “So if it was a game where I needed to distribute the ball more and get guys open, then it was my goal to do that to the best of my ability. But if it was a game where I needed to get some shots up and be aggressive, then I tried to do that.”

In the postseason, McConnell enjoyed even greater success, increasing his averages to 16.8 points and six assists while playing 163 out of 165 possible minutes in the four games.

“He was obviously valuable, but we were only able to [play him so much] because of his commitment to conditioning,” head coach Matt Logie said. “We didn’t have to take him off the court because he was in such tremendous shape and we will always put the guys out there who give us the best chance to win.”

McConnell said his favorite moment of the season was when the Pirates won their eighth consecutive NWC tournament championship over Puget Sound, during which McConnell scored 15 points, recorded seven assists and grabbed six boards.

“It was a lot of fun winning that last game at home. It was the conference tournament championship and the conference tournament is a really important thing to set you up for the NCAA tournament,” McConnell said. “It was a tough win against UPS who’s a good team and our guys played hard. It was a really fun way to end out my career and get a last win at home.”

McConnell, along with senior Colton McCargar, will have an opportunity to further his basketball career at a combine for professional overseas teams in Los Angeles at the end of May.

“[McConnell] definitely has the talent and drive to play after college,” Logie said. “I am looking forward to him having an opportunity to showcase that ability.”

Despite his Whitworth basketball career ending in March, McConnell continued his athletic career for the school until recently playing for the tennis team. Due to the overlap with the end of the basketball season, McConnell missed the first month or so of the season, but finished with a 3-1 singles record and a 1-0 doubles record.

Sophomore Drew Adams, also a basketball-tennis dual athlete, who knows McConnell from their time at Clarkston High School together, said he has gained a respect for McConnell as a teammate over the years.

“I don’t think it mattered where he was, he always has that will and that fire to compete,” Adams said. “He’s always very positive but he’ll get on guys if he needs to. But he gets on himself just as much as he gets on a teammate.”

Whether he ends up playing basketball in Europe, or putting his kinesiology degree to use in the United States, McConnell said he will always be thankful for the four years he spent as a Pirate.

“It was incredible. I couldn’t ask for a better college experience. The groups of guys I got to play with day in and day out are unbelievable players and great guys,” McConnell said. “Guys that push you every day and that’s really what made it so fun is playing with guys that are at such a high level. It really brings you up and I’m just so fortunate to be a part of the teams I was with.”

James Silberman Staff Writer

Men dominate, women second at conference meet

Note:  Corrections were made to this story to correct statements about Dakota Kliamovich's hammer throw records and the distance of Courtney Fairhart's winning discus throw. The Whitworthian incorrectly reported that Kliamovich set personal, school and meet records. The winning throw was only a meet record. Kliamovich set personal and school records with a throw of 177'9'' at the Sam Adams Classic. Fairhart's winning throw distance was 143'4", but was incorrectly reported as 133'4" in the original article. The Pirate men were a step above the competition all weekend, winning a fifth consecutive track and field conference championship with 225 points. No other school finished with even half of the men’s score. The women’s team finished with 138 points, edging out Willamette for second place. The two squads combined for a league-best, with 10 individual conference champions.

Head coach Toby Schwarz was not surprised by the men’s success despite the shockingly large margin of victory.

“We won last year by 150,” Schwarz said. “We doubled up second, but no, it didn’t really surprise me.”

On Friday, the field teams won four events beginning with victories in both the men’s and women’s hammer throw. Senior Keegan Shea successfully defended his title with a toss of 190’ 9” and sophomore Dakota Kliamovich broke the conference championship meet record with a 173’ 7” mark.

Senior Peter Delap, also the winner of the decathlon, won the men’s high jump as well, clearing a personal best 6’ 6.25”. Delap would add more points later in the weekend with a fourth-place finish in the men’s pole vault and a sixth-place finish in the long jump.

At the conclusion of the meet, Delap was named the 2014 NWC Field Athlete of the Meet.

Senior Jonathan Hoff took first in the men’s long jump with a mark of 22’ 5.75”. Hoff defeated the runner-up by .5”.

The quartet of wins, aided by many other top finishes, gave the Whitworth men a sizable lead with 84 points, and had the women in second place with 48.5 after the first day of competition.

Saturday was similar to Friday for both squads as the men extended their lead on the rest of the teams while the women, despite a late run, were unable to catch George Fox.

More women’s records fell as sophomore Kerry Wright won her second javelin championship to set personal, school and meet bests with a throw of 156’2”.

“This season has been a lot of hard work but I persevered and got a big throw at conference,” Wright said.

Wright now has the top five throws in school history, but said she still has goals to achieve.

“Winning nationals is always the goal,” Wright said. “And I’m still trying to throw 160 feet.”

Hoff won a championship for the second-consecutive day, as he finished the men’s 110-meter hurdles in 14.90 seconds.

Sophomore Alex Hardlund claimed the men’s 400-meter hurdles championship crossing the finish line in 56.15 seconds, while freshman Elijah Varner ran a 58.41, good enough for third place.

Hardlund won a second championship as part of the men’s 4x400-meter relay team alongside sophomore Nicholas Gosselin, junior Matt Landon and senior Will Wren. The group won the event posting a 3:19.15.

“Almost everyone PR’d [personal record] and there were a lot of good performances as well as some unexpected things that also went well,” Hardlund said. “It was a really great weekend overall.”

Sophomore Courtney Fairhart won the women’s discus championship with a personal best throw of 143’4”.

Whitworth nearly swept the whole podium for the men’s pole vault as freshman Everett Kleven won the event clearing 15’ .25”, junior Joe Green posted a 14’ 6.25” mark, good enough for second, while Delap came in fourth.

Other top finishers from the weekend included junior Chase Wright and senior Tyler Coopman who took second and third in the men’s javelin. Gosselin was the runner-up in both the men’s 200-meter and 400-meter dash, freshman Lucas McGill took second in the high jump, junior Trent Dudley took third in the men’s 3000-meter steeplechase, and sophomore Chris MacMurray took third in the men’s 800-meter.

Sophomore Mary Data finished second in the women’s shot put, sophomore Katie McKay finished third in the women’s 800-meter, and junior Emily Moore finished third in the women’s 400-meter hurdles.

Schwarz spoke highly of the women’s team’s performance.

“George Fox is really good and we weren’t that far away,” Schwarz said. “We battled all the way ‘til the end.”

To go along with his athletes’ success, Schwarz was given his eighth NWC Coach of the Year award.

“It’s a coaching staff, team and program award really,” Schwarz said. “As a coach, I just have to put athletes in the right place to be successful.”

James Silberman Staff Writer

Hoyos overcomes heart condition to play tennis

After encountering early struggles in her life, freshman Bella Hoyos has not let the odds define her. Growing up in Bellingham, Wash., Hoyos was diagnosed at  age 3 with Kawasaki disease, a childhood heart disease which involves inflammation of the blood vessels that may cause damage to the heart. Though the rare heart condition may result in limited physical activities, Hoyos plays tennis for Whitworth, as the top freshman at No. 3 singles. A lot of parents do not know about this disease, as it begins with a flu, Hoyos said.

“I was showing symptoms very rapidly, so my parents brought me to the emergency room to see what was wrong. And the hospital in Bellingham was not quite sure what it was, so they sent me to the Children’s [hospital] in Seattle [where] the Kawasaki expert Dr. Portman knew right away,” Hoyos said.

After spending a few days in the hospital, Hoyos said that her parents were given a choice with regard to her future activities. They could keep an eye on her 24/7 and prevent her from playing sports, or they could sacrifice 24-hour care to give her the chance to be a kid.

“[My parents] didn’t want to put restrictions on what I did actively,” Hoyos said. “They allowed me to do what I wanted to do and supported me in anyway that they could and still do.”

While attending Bellingham High School, Hoyos went to the state tournament for doubles her freshman and sophomore years, where she and her partner won the state title twice. The next two years, she went to the state tournament for singles and placed third both times.

After those tremendous accomplishments, not to play in college was not an option for Hoyos, she said.

“Having her at that No. 3 spot is huge for us because she is so strong right there,” head coach Jo Wagstaff said.

Hoyos’ only conference loss in her first year of college tennis was to Whitman. She was recently named Second Team All-NWC.

“Getting to play with good hitters every day has helped her improve,” Wagstaff said.

Though Hoyos is an only child, she hardly considers herself to be one thanks to her relatives’ presence in her life, Wagstaff said.

“Her parents just come here for about every match and she has a couple of grandparents that come as well, with her aunts and uncles,” Wagstaff said.

Hoyos originally researched potential causes of the disease in the hope of pursuing it after receiving her bachelor’s degree in Health Science. However, after being exposed to different health professions, Hoyos is drawn to occupational therapy. She wants to attend a graduate school outside of Washington, but wants to come back and hopefully work at Seattle Children’s Hospital to primarily help kids.

“Not all kids who are born with this disease are able to do this level of physical activity, yet Bella became a tennis star,” assistant coach Colin Storm said.

Now that Hoyos has seen what she is capable of, she reaches out to kids with this disease and their parents. She spoke at a symposium sponsored by the Seattle Children’s Hospital last fall. She wanted the families to understand that children should not be held from what they want to do, Christine Hoyos, Bella’s mother, said.

“Now we don’t think about it anymore when she’s on the court. She is healthy and happy with what she is doing. When she first started at Whitworth, she said that being a student-athlete was a lot of work, and she thought she wasn’t going to be able to make it,” Christine Hoyos said. “But we told her that it was up to her to decide and we are happy and so proud of her and the choice she made.”

Jessica Razanadrakoto Staff Writer

Sandberg bringing new energy to football team

Whitworth University introduced Rod Sandberg into the community by hiring him to be the new head coach for the football team last December. Before coming to Whitworth, Sandberg was a longtime defensive assistant coach at Wheaton College. He has coached six players to eight NCAA Division III All-American honors and 49 All-Conference players during his time at Wheaton.

Coach Sandberg has been given an opportunity to start fresh with Whitworth players and give a new meaning to their approach to next season.

Freshman running back Duke DeGaetano said that one of Sandberg’s goals is to improve the team’s perception in the community.

“I think his impact will be having every player on the team be a man of character, integrity and hard work once they are done with their four years of football and school. He will also impact us by bringing in a new energy that our football team needs in order to become Northwest Conference champions,” DeGaetano said.

After a 4-6 season in 2013, Sandberg looks to create a cohesive team of players who are eager to win through trusting their faith, thinking about their future, building a strong family and having fun, Sandberg said.

“We don’t focus on winning, we focus on two things: how we can play to our potential and play the way we are capable of [by focusing] on process,” Sandberg said.

Sandberg has a passion for his players to grow as a family through the power of faith and the support of coaches as they prepare for next season, Sandberg said.

“We want this to be a football family and we are working hard to create that. It’s a Whitworth culture and we do life together. I and the other coaches owe it to the team to play the best players but treat everyone the same,” Sandberg said.

Players who were on the football team last year have seen a new tempo in practices and expect to see improvements to be made on and off the field.

“Coach Sandberg is extremely discipline oriented, puts accountability on all of us and allows us to lean on one another,” junior wide receiver Drew Clausen said. “He is personable, going out of his way to make you feel comfortable. He provides us with energy, you can feel it through the off season and spring ball; I’m super excited to get out there and play ball.”

Sandberg highlighted how important his family is to him, especially his two sons, Derek and Toby who are 7 and 4 years old. If he is not working to build the positive atmosphere of the team, he is at home with his wife, Amy, and sons.

Whether it’s riding a bull, dog sledding in Canada or running a triathlon, Sandberg pushes his limits and lives on the edge. The idea of leadership is fascinating to Sandberg and believes that building leaders from when the player is a freshman to a senior is highly important, Sandberg said.

“What can our staff do for you to prosper and become better as an individual, influence lives and be sincere in faith. That’s what I’m about and what this school is about,” Sandberg said.

Sandberg is a dedicated father, husband, mentor and coach who puts the needs of others before his own. Not only has Sandberg so far been a public figure for the Whitworth community, he also has hopes to inspire each player that he encounters.

“God had called us and it felt like that call was to come to Whitworth. Once I had learned more about Whitworth, I was able to see that this is a place where we pursue excellence in everything they do. This is a people place, and people matter. All of the professors, other coaches, and president, I want to align myself to those people,” Sandberg said.

Sandberg hopes to lead the football team next season to a winning record as they play against Lewis & Clark at home for their first game together. Sandberg’s motto is something he stays true to and expects for every student-athlete who plays for him.

“Playing football in our program will be one of the greatest experiences of a young man’s life,” Sandberg said.

Tyler Jezierski Staff Writer

Golf finishes up at NWC Championships

The men’s and women’s golf teams traveled to Woodburn, Ore., where they finished off their season in the Northwest Conference Championships at OGA Golf Course. The men’s team tied for second place with Puget Sound and the women’s team took third with total team scores of 612 and 675, respectively. Though neither of the teams will be continuing on to nationals, senior Jesse Salzwedel and freshman Michal Schuster took medalist honors in the overall player standings. Salzwedel was also named NWC Men’s Golfer of the Year.

“It’s a great way to end my four years at Whitworth,” Salzwedel said. “I’ve won tournaments in the past years but I’ve never won the championship. I’ve never been crowned as the Northwest Conference Champion and this is what I had been working for.”

Salzwedel led the men’s team by shooting matching rounds of 73 for a two over par total score of 146, which hurdled him from a third place tie in Saturday’s round to a first place finish to end his collegiate golf career.

“I went out this morning and said, ‘God, your will be done’ and if I play well, I play well,” Salzwedel said. “I just wanted to end my college career on a high note and God definitely answered, which I am so blessed and thankful for.”

By lowering his score by five strokes, sophomore Oliver Rudnicki jumped from 15th place to a three-way tie for eighth place with a score of 79-74—153.

“Playing in the bigger tournaments earlier this year really helped us a lot,” Rudnicki said. “I made sure to play my own game and take each shot one at a time.”

Senior Stephen Plopper (80-76—156) and sophomore teammate Austin Billeter (86-76—157) also finished the 6501-yard course in the top 20 where Plopper completed his final collegiate match in a three-way tie for 16th place while Billeter took 19th place overall.

The women, only eight strokes behind Whitman, maintained third place throughout the tournament.

Schuster held on tight to first place in the player standings both rounds to end with a final score of six over par 73-79—152.

“The last five holes are what really sealed the win for me,” Schuster said. “Right off the bat [on Sunday] I slipped down from my lead. I went into the round with a four-stroke lead over the girl in second place, but in the first five holes I gave up five strokes and lost the lead, but I was able to come back and it really came down to those last holes.”

Sophomore Chelsea Bayley improved her score by six strokes to finish in a three-way tie for 16th place with a score of 89-83—172.

“I started out really good [on Sunday],” Bayley said. “I hit good drives and I drained a 20-footer for a birdie and it was a great feeling after not playing so well yesterday. That birdie was definitely a momentum-bringer for me in the tournament.”

Sophomore Yvonne LaCoursiere (87-88—175) finished the championship tournament in a three-way tie for 22nd place, while teammate junior Nicole Lomax finished only one stroke behind.

With matching rounds of 88 for a score of 176, Lomax finished in 25th place and earned Second Team All-NWC honors for her second consecutive time.

“We went out there knowing what it would be like and tried to do our very best,” Schuster said. “I mean that is really all you can do and I am proud of the team.”

The Whitworth men and women’s golf teams will return to action next fall.

Jordanne Perry Staff Writer

Softball concludes season on NWC tournament loss

Whitworth’s softball team went to play in the Northwest Conference Tournament last Friday and Saturday, hosted by top-seeded Linfield College. Whitworth fell to Pacific (Ore.) 3-2 in the first game, won the second game against Willamette 6-2, and then lost the double-elimination game against Pacific 4-3.

In the first game, freshman Kayla Bastastini went 2-3 and sophomore Alyssa Hall 2-4 at the plate. Freshman Madi Perez (14-6) struck out five, walked two, gave up eight hits, and allowed two runs in a 6.2 inning performance.

The Pirates moved on to play Willamette, who had suffered a first round defeat against Linfield, 14-3. Whitworth was able to knock off the Bearcats in its second game.

Whitworth put up five runs in the first inning, rebounding with tenacity from the first loss against Pacific. Junior Peyton McMahon went 4-4, with one run and one RBI. Meanwhile, senior Julia Johnson went 2-3 and Batastini 2-4 at the plate with three runs batted in.

Madi Perez was back out in the circle for the Bucs as she gained the win (15-6). She allowed eight hits, two runs, and struck out one in seven innings.

After the win against Willamette, the Pirates went back to face Pacific. Pacific had lost the second game of the tournament to Linfield. Concluding a close battle with combined offense and defensive plays, Whitworth came up short, lost 4-3.

McMahon went 2-4 with an RBI and senior Taylor Gilbert was 2-3 at the plate. Perez (15-7) only gave up two hits and one run in three innings of work, but took the loss in the end.

Whitworth ended the season with a final record of 27-16.

Tyler Jezierski Staff Writer

Men's tennis closes out 2014 season with back-to-back wins

The Whitworth men’s tennis team ended the 2014 season by winning last weekend’s matchups against visiting Willamette and at Linfield, 8-1 and 8-1.

As Willamette came with only four players, they had to forfeit one doubles match and two singles matches, putting Whitworth up by three right at the beginning.

The Bucs then decided to shuffle the players a little bit. Senior John Talbot and junior Matt Goebel played No. 1 doubles for the first time in the season and edged their opponents, 8-3, with a high first serve percentage.

“We came out a little bit slow,” Talbot said. “The three games [won by Willamette] were in the first five games that we played, and so if we could come out like how we were playing in the second half of the match, we could have won 8-0, maybe.”

Seniors Troy Patterson and Dustin McConnell in No. 2 doubles earned the same score as No. 1 doubles.

Sophomore Drew Brigham won a lot of aces from setting strong serves against his No. 1 singles opponent and won the match, 6-2, 6-2.

“I wasn’t playing awesome off of my groundstrokes, but my serve came through and kind of helped me go, and stay ahead in the match,” Brigham said. “I had a lot of aces, and not very many double faults, so that was good. When you’re serving well, you get pumped up, and everything else kind of just follows.”

Though Brigham said he was all fired up from those aces, he said he believes that he needs to be a little more consistent because he missed a lot of backhands, Brigham said.

Sophomore Blake Miller left his No. 2 singles opponent with only one game, 6-0, 6-1.

Junior Chris Engelmann in No. 3 singles came from behind in the first set, but got the ball deep, was consistent, attacked the shorter balls and ended up defeating his opponent, 6-4, 6-1. Engelmann considered his opponent to be a crafty player, as the Bearcat messed  with his mind while constantly bouncing the ball for a long period of time, Engelmann said.

“I did my best. I played with the tools I had, with the best of my abilities,” Engelmann said. “I felt like I could have treated the court a little bit better with my groundstrokes, but overall, it was a hard-fought match and he pushed me.”

The only point for the Bearcats came from No. 4 singles when Whitworth freshman Shane Sandlin had to forfeit because of an ankle injury.

On Saturday afternoon, the same players played together in No. 1 doubles and won with the same score as they did with their matchup on Friday. In No. 2 doubles, Patterson paired up with sophomore Drew Adams but lost, 8-4.

Only two doubles were played, as Linfield only traveled with five players. This gave the Pirates two points in hand before the match even started.

Sophomore Blake Miller edged his Wildcat opponent in No. 3 singles, 6-1, 6-0 with aggressive and consistent play.

“I lost to the that guy the last time we played,” Miller said. “I knew coming into both matches that I needed to take an early lead and take advantage of big points early in the match. I did that really well both days.”

The Pirates won the rest of the singles matches, when the three Pirate seniors, McConnell, Patterson and Talbot played their last matches of their college careers.

The Bucs finish 8-10 overall and 7-5 in the NWC.

“[Winning the last two matches of the conference] is a really good feeling; especially coming after a couple of losses,” Miller said. “The whole team, more or less, we all got a lot of good wins. We really dominated these two last matches, which is really good for next year.”

Jessica Razanadrakoto Staff Writer

Spotted from the Crow's Nest: Julia Johnson

As senior first baseman Julia Johnson closes out her regular season play on the softball team, she has hopes to lead her squad to an NWC tournament championship.

Johnson has accumulated a batting average of .313 over the season with 31 hits, eight doubles, nine home runs, 39 RBI’s, an on-base percentage of .474, and the best slugging percentage on the team at .667. In Johnson’s four years at Whitworth, she has hit 24 home runs, a school record.

“Julia is a confident offensive player and has a big presence in the box. She has an excellent attitude, trusts in other people, and is a real leader who steps up and serves to help other people,” junior utility player Taylor Gilbert said.

Johnson has expressed her love for the sport by her competitiveness and her ultimate goal while on the field: To have fun.

“Julia is very influential on the field. She always knows what to say in the tough situations and always knows how to pick us up as well as come through with clutch at-bats when we need them,” freshman pitcher Madi Perez said. “She is a leader on our team. She is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet and will always have your back and is a beast on the field.”

While Johnson was growing up, she was surrounded by sports. Her older brother played baseball and that inspired her to jump into softball, which she later excelled at. She has always watched her brother succeed and play baseball. Her goal has continually been to match up to his skill level and potential, wanting to be that much better for herself and her brother so he can then be proud of her achievements.

“She is a team leader and brings confidence to our team. She motivates us through her actions and always fights whether it is an at-bat or on the field, she never gives up and helps us to motivate each other,” sophomore outfielder Alyssa Hall said.

Her preparation before a game takes dedication and hard work.

“I always have to listen to “Here comes the Boom” by Nelly whether I’m in my room or on the bus heading to the game to feel that rhythm, knowing it’s game time. I always have to end on a good hit in the batting cages to feel satisfied and not jinx myself,” Johnson said.

Johnson said that she loves to see her team’s competitive drive and will to win. They have this passion to do whatever it takes to get on top, and they have created this bond to come as a team and conquer anything that stands in their way, she said.

“I may seem like a silly, sweet person, but once I get on the field, I’m the most intimidating, competitive person you’ll ever meet,” Johnson said.

Head softball coach Cristal Brown had her own personal interpretation of what Johnson brings to the table for the Whitworth softball team.

“Julia is a competitor, and displays intimidating factors every time she steps up to bat. Her team mates knows she cares, and she’s super competitive,” Brown said.

The softball team finished its regular season on the road against Lewis & Clark. Johnson said that working on the fundamentals will be the biggest aspect in having a chance at a national championship.

“We need to be focused 24/7 for every second in every inning. It will be crucial to know the fundamentals and play the game right. We need to get our momentum going earlier so we can get on top of the opponents and make those adjustments in advance,” Johnson said.

Whitworth will play against Pacific University at the Northwest Conference Tournament on Friday, April 18 and Saturday, April 19. The double elimination tournament will be hosted by Linfield.

Tyler Jezierski Staff Writer

Men's tennis falls to Whitman in conference matchup

The Whitworth men’s tennis team lost a hard fought battle against the 14th-ranked Whitman team in the ITA last week on Wednesday evening with a final score of 9-0.

The Pirates had opportunities in doubles, but were not able to pull out points, as all three doubles matches ended with close losses.

Sophomore Drew Brigham and freshman Shane Sandlin fell 8-6 in No. 1 doubles.

At one point toward the end of the match, Sandlin returned the ball deep to the unsuspecting Whitman No. 1 doubles team as the ball landed in the corner of their box, giving the Pirates a point.

“It was a lot of pressure,” Sandlin said. “If I win, I will have won the match, if he won, he kept the match going.”

Another point came for the Pirates in the second set when Brigham hit the ball and it bounced on top of the net. The Missionaries were not able to hit it back, and the ball landed on the other side of the net.

Sophomore Blake Miller and junior Matt Goebel in No. 3 doubles also played aggressively, had lots of volleys, managed to return a lot of hits from Whitman, but ended with a loss, 8-6.

Miller put away a large amount of overheads and aimed his shots to his opponents’ baseline.

Similar plays happened throughout the match played by senior John Talbot and sophomore Drew Adams ,who lost 8-5 in No. 2 doubles.

In No. 3 singles, junior Chris Engelmann fell to Whitman competition 6-3, 6-2.

“There were a lot of deuce games,” Engelmann said. “They were really close games, and he just converted a lot more of the longer games than I did. It reflected the quality of the play during the match.”

Though Sandlin in No. 6 singles lost his match, he went went into multiple tie breaker rounds, as he and his opponent exchanged several volleys before the match was decided, 12-10.

“I thought the team played pretty well,” Engelmann said. “We played a nationally-ranked team today, really good squad and I think we all really tried our best, showed up, played very hard, and had a lot of heart on the court today.”

The Pirates dropped to 6-10 overall and 5-5 in conference play.

“The bottom line is we lost,” head coach Mike Shanks said. “ Yes, they are nationally ranked very high, but losing is always a bitter pill to swallow. We will learn from it and use it positively.”

The Bucs will play against visiting Willamette and Linfield this weekend in the Scotford Tennis Center.

Jessica Razanadrakoto Staff Writer

Baseball takes two of three against Pacific

With home runs and the first grand slam of the season, the Whitworth men’s baseball team won two games in a three-game series at home against Pacific last weekend. With their fourth win in the last five games, the Pirates improved their record to 10-19 overall and 7-11 in the Northwest Conference. “I felt like we really played well as a team and we were able to have timely hitting,” junior catcher Joshua Davis said. “A lot of guys stepped up when we needed them. We played really loose and just had a great time playing ball.”

Game one of the series resulted in a 6-1 win in which junior starting pitcher Cory Mack commanded the mound through the first eight innings.

“There were times in the game where I would get a little off so I would take a step back, reset and then go back to work and it seemed to help whenever I got in trouble,” Mack said. “Just being able to reset and refocus was the best aspect of my game.”

With his older brother visiting from Alaska and his family attending the game for support, Mack made sure he did not disappoint the crowd with his performance, Mack said.

“The day was a little more special since I had family that came,” Mack said. “I wanted to make them proud so they’d say something like, ‘Hey, that’s my grandson.”

Mack struck out five Pacific batters and allowed only one unearned run on four hits before senior pitcher Taylor Isadore took over to finish out the game for the Pirates.

A single to right field from senior outfielder Tyler Pfeffer brought two Pirates home for the first two runs of the game in the fourth inning. Later in the same inning, Pacific’s shortstop made an error, allowing Davis to score. Pfeffer later scored on a single to right field by freshman first baseman Matt Nelson. Senior Justin Liu brought in the final run of the inning with a sacrifice fly.

“I think it takes hitters a little while to figure out opposing pitchers,” head coach Dan Ramsay said. “Once our guys saw their guy a couple of times they had him figured out and we’re able to push a few runs across the plate in the process.”

In the bottom of the seventh inning, Davis sealed the win for the Pirates with a solo home run to right field.

Game two of the series was a struggle for the Pirates as they lost, 6-2.

“I think the biggest difference was the performance of the winning pitchers on both ends of the doubleheader,” Ramsay said. “Cory Mack threw extremely well game one and [Pacific’s] starter did a really good job of keeping our hitters off balance throughout [game two].”

Two home runs from Pacific in the bottom of the first inning set the Pirates back early, as the score quickly turned to 3-0 in Pacific’s favor.

Davis quickly answered Pacific by hitting his second home run of the day and bringing home senior infielder Gerhard Muelheims to score two runs for the Pirates.

“It was a good feeling,” Davis said. “Everybody is going to have a good or bad day, and I guess that Saturday was a good one for me.”

In the eighth inning with a score of 6-2 Pacific, the Pirates had the bases loaded with one out. But a double play from second to first base terminated their chance to score and Pacific defeated the Pirates to tie the series.

Whitworth took ahold of the series in game three as junior starting pitcher Spencer Ansett allowed only five hits and threw 84 pitches as part of a complete game to shut out Pacific, 8-0.

The scoreboard remained blank until the fifth inning when Muelheims hit his first home run of the season to bring in two runs.

Back-to-back doubles were hit in the seventh inning by junior outfielder Thomas Wakem and Nelson to bring in two runs extending the Pirate’s lead to 4-0.

“When our lineup starts clicking on all cylinders we’re a very difficult team to face,” Ramsay said. “Our hitters were consistent with their plan and approach and it paid off in game three.”

Nelson made the biggest play of the game for the Pirates in the bottom of the eighth inning when he drilled a grand slam way over the right field fence to double the score 8-0 and put the game away.

“I went up to the plate just wanting to get the job done for Spencer [Ansett] and give him a couple more runs so he could go out and feel more comfortable pitching in the game,” Nelson said.

The men will play again this week in a Northwest Conference three-game series against Willamette in Salem, Ore.

“Our coaches have always said, ‘It’s just a game and it is the same game you’ve been playing ever since you were a little kid so just go out there and have fun with it,” Nelson said. “So we’re just going out there and having fun.”

Jordanne Perry Staff Writer

Fresh design, features highlight new larger court

Update: The version of this article that was included in the Issue 14 print edition, provided an incomplete estimate of the court cost that did not include additional costs for court construction. The version of the article displayed here on the web contains information that accounts for that difference. It has held witness to numerous NWC Championships, NCAA tournament games and even a D3Hoops.com NCAA DIII National Player of the Year, but after more than 30 years of use, it was ready to be replaced. The game court in the Fieldhouse has been the setting for men’s and women’s basketball games, as well as volleyball games, and is in the process of being replaced by a new, redesigned court.

“The people that come in and refinish the court each year have a feel for the life expectancy of it and how it’s deteriorating over time,” head men’s basketball coach Matt Logie said. “I think as time progressed, they made it known to us that we could continue to refinish and it would continue to be workable, but it was kind of on its last legs.”

The remodel project is being funded from money from the previous fiscal year and was not affected by the budget deficit associated with the current fiscal year.

Graphic courtesy of Joe VanHoomissen

“This actually came out of last year’s budget, so it was already in the books before the major budget cuts came this fall,” athletics facilities manager Joe VanHoomissen said. “It was proposed in the middle of last year and finalized over the summer.”

The project cost for the court including paint/design and ramps on the ends of the court edges ended up turning out to be $100,600. Despite the fact that the total project cost is yet to be finalized because the work is currently in progress, the university is budgeting $193,000 to account for additional demolition and surrounding construction.

The court has been in the same spot in the Fieldhouse without being moved for quite some time. The court used to be removed periodically for other events in the Fieldhouse, but that process resulted in increased wear and tear on the court, and a decision to leave the court in place was agreed upon.

“Taking apart the court now, you can look at the profile of the wood and it’s almost down to the joints where the panels of wood join together,” VanHoomissen said. “They are almost sanded to that point of breaking.”

The refinishing process involves sanding off what remains of the finish and logo paint. Then, new coats of paint are applied and a few coats of sealer are added to finish the process. That process takes a toll on the lifespan of the court.

“We weren’t sure if it was going to come apart in a fashion that it could be put back together,” interim athletic director Melinda Larson said. “It had been sanded and varnished so many times we thought maybe the varnish, the adhesive, was in the joints and it would break.”

The new court will be permanently fixed, as opposed to the previous portable court.

Tyler Jezierski|Photographer

The main contractor assigned to the court construction itself is a local company, Northern Hardwood, based in Deer Park. It is most known for construction of the Gonzaga basketball court. Northern Hardwood is also the representative for Connor Sports Flooring in the greater Northwestern United States. Connor Sports Flooring provides all the NCAA men’s and women’s Final Four floors.

“Basketball coaches went up to their warehouse, bounced balls, jumped up and down on the different types of floors. They talked about what kind of floor Montana has, what kind of floor Gonzaga has,” Larson said. “We made sure to get a high-quality court, but it isn’t the Cadillac version. It’s not the Moped version either.”

The new court will be slightly larger as well, with dimensions of 70 feet by 120 feet, as opposed to the old court dimensions of 60 feet by 110 feet, and will extend to the bleachers. In addition to all-black sidelines and red lines on the court, the flag  emblem on the court will be about 30 percent larger.

“The court was bought in the early 1980s from UPS and so it was on its last legs but certainly had a lot of great memories on it,” Logie said. “I know volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball will really benefit from the new surface with kind of a fresh start.”

Head volleyball coach Kati Bodecker told the project team that she wanted to ensure that the team would have access to two practice courts going at one time. The idea is to have one net spanning the length of one half of the court and another spanning the other half of the court.

Sophomore Nicole Leonard said that the system that prompted Bodecker’s suggestion included women practicing on the court and behind the bleachers, which created problems.

“Some girls would have to go behind the bleachers into that other court area where there is cement and then it was really difficult for the coaches to coach both sides,” Leonard said. “It was really confusing and really terrible, but having two courts side-by-side will be extremely helpful.”

In addition, the new court is likely to provide health benefits for athletes.

“As courts get older they lose some of their bounce or support, and that can take a toll on knees and ankles and things like that. Having a new, fresh surface will be a good thing from an injury prevention standpoint too,” Logie said.

Sophomore guard George Valle is excited not only for the increased stability and lack of wear the new court will have on his body, but also on the impression it creates for prospective students.

Tyler Jezierski|Photographer

“Definitely, it’s something we’ll say to recruits, like ‘Hey we got a brand new court coming,’” Valle said. “It’s kind of just nice to get anything that’s going to be new.”

The project is estimated to be completed by June 5 and will be ready for play for the basketball and volleyball seasons next fall.

“Overall, it’s going to be a huge upgrade for the basketball and volleyball teams playing on it, as well as for game management and recruiting, it’s a huge one, it’s a draw. It’ll be pretty cool,” VanHoomissen said.

Connor Soudani Sports Editor

Whitman sweeps women's tennis

Tied for first place, the Whitworth women’s tennis team came into the matchup with Whitman on Saturday, undefeated in the conference play. The Pirates fell to the 14th-ranked Missionaries in a 9-0 sweep. “Whitman is just a really tough team,” junior Saryn Mooney said. “They [are so] deep that even their lower players: 5, 6, 7 and 8, can jump in and be successful because they are just as good as their top players.”

What partly caused No. 1 doubles’ 8-3 loss by Mooney and sophomore Taylor Peña, were unforced errors, Mooney said. Unlike the Missionaries, the Bucs hit more balls into the net off of serves and volleys.

“They were more aggressive than we were, more consistent and stayed in the rally longer than we did,” Mooney said. “They also made their way to the net quicker than we did.”

Though the Pirate pair of freshman Bella Hoyos and junior Morgan McDivitt in No. 2 doubles lost their match 8-6, it was the closest match the Bucs had against the Missionaries.

“Every spot was a challenge,” sophomore Caylee Lamm said. “We haven’t come across a team that played like that. They are hard hitters.”

As a result of the Missionaries’ intensity and aggressiveness in the match, freshmen Hannah Wallin and Anabelle Burns lost against the No. 3 Whitman doubles team, 8-1.

“We need to work on the doubles and on some strategies, having a solid plan,” Mooney said. “We would have had more chance to win if we stayed in the rally longer.”

Assistant coach Colin Storm believes that the team did not play its best tennis. The coaches knew that No. 1 doubles was going to be a tough match, as Peña’s opponent was the No. 1 tennis player in the conference. However, they thought they would have had a chance in No. 2 through No. 6 singles.

“They played better than us, but hey, we have four freshmen who play significantly on the team, which was the first time they got to play in this kind of match,” Storm said. “Even though we are very disappointed with our result, we’re happy finishing second after a team in the top 20 in the nation.”

Even though the loss moves Whitworth down to the second spot in the conference standings, they are proud of what they have achieved so far, as they are doing better than they did last year, Mooney said.

The Pirates had the lead in No. 2, 4 and 5 singles; however, when it started raining, it took away the momentum they had, Storm said.

In addition, No. 2 singles by Mooney and No. 4 singles by Burns went into multiple tiebreaker rounds, but both resulted in losses, 10-7, 10-1.

The Bucs are looking forward to playing more aggressively, rallying longer and working on the return against a team as good as Whitman, Lamm said.

If Whitworth edges Linfield in the last conference match, the Pirates would have another face-to-face matchup with the Missionaries, Storm said.

“Hopefully we get another crack with Whitman,” Storm said. “We know their level of tennis, it’s important to get started in doubles and have to bring our best team against Whitman.”

The Bucs feel good about being second in the conference, but feel confident going into the rest of the season, Mooney said.

“Our season basically boiled down in one weekend,” Storm said. “But Whitman played very well and they deserved the win.”

With two more conference matches left, the women will visit Willamette in Salem, Ore., this week.

Jessica Razanadrakoto Staff Writer

Wildcats sweep Pirates in last regular season series

Whitworth’s softball team was swept against Linfield in two doubleheaders last weekend at Marks Field. Whitworth’s record fell to 22-12 overall and 14-8 in conference. The Wildcats improved their overall record to 28-6 and in conference 22-2. Whitworth quickly fell behind in the first game against Linfield as junior pitcher Riley Fritz gave up an RBI double and two-run homer in the first inning, allowing Linfield to take a 3-0 lead. In the bottom of the second inning, Fritz was able to convert after senior first baseman Julia Johnson started the inning with a single up the middle. An RBI by Fritz made the game closer, 3-1.

In the top of the fifth, the Wildcats were able to score three more runs, extending their lead, 7-2. A sacrifice fly from Johnson allowed senior outfielder Mackenzie Hope to score, bringing Whitworth closer, 7-3. Despite a solid pitching performance the last couple of innings, the Bucs were unable to come back. The final score of the first game was 7-3, giving Linfield’s Karina Paavola the win (14-3), and Whitworth’s Fritz the loss (3-1).

“We need to keep believing, knowing we can do this as a team. We also need to play with confidence and make sure that every at-bat is a good at-bat and we’ll succeed,” freshman Kelsey Stroshine said.

The second game on Saturday lacked offense early, as neither team would be able to get a hit until Linfield struck at the top of the sixth. An RBI double from the Wildcat’s Katie Brosig, followed by an RBI double from Erin Kinney allowed Linfield to take the go-ahead lead, 2-0. Whitworth had a slim sight of hope at the end of the game when senior pitcher Taylor Gilbert singled up the middle. Unfortunately, junior pinch runner Sacha Clow was unable to score when Paavola collected her third strikeout of the inning and ending the game 2-0 in favor of the Wildcats.

In the third game against Linfield on Sunday, Hope started off the bottom of the first inning with a single but resulted in no runs scored. In the top of the third, Linfield was able to score three runs after a pair of hits and two errors by Whitworth’s defense. Linfield then went on to score three more runs in the seventh inning to seal a 6-0 victory. Sophomore outfielder Alyssa Hall and Hope marked the only hits of the game for Whitworth.

“The bats weren’t as good even though the defense was solid. We are going to focus on keeping our defense strong and next weekend pull through with those bats and get a win,” Hall said.

Linfield’s Haylie Watson hit a two-run home run in the top of the second inning to start the final game of the weekend.

After Johnson doubled to right center in the bottom of the inning, sophomore Brittany Connor pinch ran and scored the Bucs’ first run of the game due to a throwing error by Linfield after  a bunt from freshman second baseman Shannon Wessel. Wessel was able to score after junior Peyton McMahon hit an RBI double. Then, McMahon scored when Kelsey Stroshine hit a sacrifice fly, making the score 3-2. Linfield collected three more runs in the top of the fourth on four hits, sealing the sweep at 5-3.

“We’ll receive another opportunity to play as a team and we will get better each time. I look forward to playing together and making the most of our season,” Wessel said.

Whitworth will wrap up the regular season on the road, visiting Pacific Lutheran for a makeup game on Thursday, April 10, before taking on Lewis & Clark April 12-13.

Tyler Jezierski Staff Writer

Golf teams finish first and second at spring classic

The windy weather did not stop the Whitworth men’s and women’s golf teams from taking first and second place, respectively, for the Northwest Conference Spring Classic in Kennewick, Wash., at Canyon Lakes Golf Course last weekend. The men finished the match 42 strokes over par, totaling a team score of 618.

Senior Stephen Plopper lowered his score by one stroke on the second day with a 76-75—151 total, to finish in first place for the tournament.

“I think [the wind] was a little bit of an advantage for us, because it takes out half of the competition since a lot of the other players aren’t used to playing in conditions like that,” Plopper said. “It required a lot of good ball striking so that was frustrating, and that’s why I think the majority of the scores were so high, but it gave us more of an advantage especially since we were 12 strokes ahead after the first day as a team.”

Sophomore Oliver Rudnicki finished the tournament tied for second with a score of 72-81—153 while senior Jesse Salzwedel tied for fourth place in the player standings with a total of 76-78—154.

“We give all the credit to God,” Plopper said. “We get together and huddle before we go out for a tournament and pray for mental and physical strength, and at the end of the day we know that God is always with us, which is pretty calming in all honesty when you are out there on the course.”

The women’s team, also increasing its score on the second day, were able to maintain second place throughout the match to finish 114 strokes over par, totaling a score of 660, just 30 points behind George Fox University.

“I’m really proud of the team,” junior Nicole Lomax said. “Everyone worked their hardest and performed well given the crazy weather conditions. I know that we could have shot lower, but honestly, we did great.”

Lomax was the top finisher for the Pirates with a score of 82-85—167 and took fourth place in the overall player standings.

“I know that not every shot I take will be perfect,” Lomax said. “So I try to go out and focus on one shot at a time and I do feel as though I could’ve performed better but I am happy with how I did.”

Freshman Michal Schuster tied for seventh place with an 83-88—171 score, while her sophomore teammate Yvonne LaCoursiere shot an eagle on hole six on the final day. LaCoursiere finished the tournament with matching round scores of 87 to tie for 10th place with a total of 174.

“I didn’t hit a very good drive and I was on the left side of the fairway in some long grass,” LaCoursiere said. “I had 136 yards left to the flag so I decided to try and hit the ball a little bit lower out of the rough so the wind wouldn’t affect it as much, let land it short of the green and roll on. It did exactly what I wanted it to and just went in the hole, which was exciting.”

Both teams will compete at the Whitman Invitational on April 19 in Walla Walla.

Jordanne Perry Staff Writer

Spotted from the Crow's Nest: Gerhard Muelheims

From baseball to soccer to golf, senior Gerhard Muelheims may have competition running through his veins, but there is more to the Whitworth baseball player than what most see on the field. At the age of 5, Muelheims was introduced to the world of athletics and began his baseball career.

“Growing up I played a lot of sports,” Muelheims said. “I grew up in a competitive family with two younger brothers and I started baseball because it was the sport of the season and I’ve been playing ever since.”

Muelheims is known by his teammates as a successful person with many talents, senior Jason Renner said, but he has overcome tremendous adversity to become the accomplished athlete that he is today.

Early in the morning of January 2006, 13-year-old Muelheims was on his way to basketball practice in Spokane with his dad, when their 1987 Mustang convertible lost traction and slid over a 20-foot embankment on Mill Road and landed upside down, said Karl Muelheims, Gerhard’s younger brother and a sophomore soccer player at Whitworth.

“Gerhard didn’t really play sports for maybe a year and a half to two years after that,” Karl said. “He injured some tracking part in his eye, so when he tried playing sports he would have extreme anxiety while playing, and it no longer became enjoyable for him.”

The devastating injury took its toll on the competitive athlete both physically and mentally.

“I remember one time he came home from school and he broke down because he couldn’t focus the same like what he was used to,” Karl said. “Coming back from something like that with all the setbacks he had made him work even harder at everything, and that work ethic has definitely stuck with him.”

After fighting through obstacles, Muelheims was able to pick up baseball as if he had never left, Karl said.

“There are a lot of times you are not going to be successful in life,” Gerhard said. “But if you are approaching things the right way and putting in hard work, then more often than not you are going to be successful.”

At Whitworth, Muelheims has had a successful baseball career. He batted .311 his freshman year and started all 48 games of the season his sophomore year. As a junior, he led the Pirates in runs scored in addition to batting .414 and received the Whitworth Pirate Baseball Scholastic Excellence Award.

One of his favorite memories of his collegiate career was going to the Division III College World Series in 2012 as a sophomore, Muelheims said.

“We’ve established that everyone looks up to him as our leader on the field,” Renner said. “He’s been one of our top three players the past three years and he sets the bar high for everybody.”

Muelheims has had to adjust to playing different positions over his college years — starting out as a second baseman, to shortstop, to now playing in the outfield his senior year.

“In my career I’ve played every position except for pitcher,” Muelheims said. “I like being the utility guy where you just show up and don’t really know what position you are going to play. It’s something new every time and it makes the game that much more exciting for me.”

Although he is dedicated to sports, Muelheims does not put all of his effort and hard work into baseball alone.

“He is a much better person, leader, athlete and Christian than lots of other people I know and myself,” Karl said. “He is not the most athletic or the smartest, but he is the one guy that works the hardest and puts his heart into everything he does, and I look up to him for that.”

On the field Muelheims is very serious and competitive, but outside of competitive sports Muelheims is an entertaining person, senior Justin Liu said.

“He likes to make weird noises and talk in funny voices a lot. I have no idea how to imitate them but he is just a goofy guy who is good at creating a really light atmosphere,” Liu said. “He also has an array of cologne so you can tell where he’s been...He’s just a funny, good-smelling guy.”

In the future, Muelheims plans to graduate with an accounting degree and obtain a certified public accountant license, Muelheims said. As for baseball, this will be his last year playing competitively.

“Maybe in the future I’ll be playing in some old man softball league,” Muelheims said. “I don’t really know how I’ll handle that last game of the season, but I play a lot of sports so I know I’ll always be involved in athletics.”

 Jordanne Perry Staff Writer

Track shines at home for eighth Sam Adams Classic

  The Whitworth track and field team had another strong showing in the Sam Adams Classic last weekend, taking first place in three events over multiple Division I schools. A school record was also set by sophomore Dakota Kliamovich in the hammer throw, Saturday.

 

The relay team of junior Joe Green, junior Jon Williams, freshman John Marshall and sophomore anchor Alex Hardlund took first place in the 4x400 meter relay as Hardlund finished off the race in 3:30.12, beating Great Falls by more than five seconds.

 

Kliamovich blew her competition out of the water with a hammer throw of 177’9”. Kliamovich continued her rewriting of the Whitworth record books, improving upon her own Whitworth school record for the third week in a row.

 

“She is going to keep breaking it hopefully,” head coach Toby Schwarz said. “She’s just a sophomore and definitely has a lot more in her for the rest of this season and over the next couple of years.”

 

The Pirates’ only two entrants in the women’s pole vault, junior McAlister Buchanan and sophomore Kierstie Shellman, tied for first place each clearing 11’1.75”. They are now tied for the 19th ranking in Division III.

 

The Bucs also came in second in a number of competitions. Sophomore Liz Scott finished the women’s steeplechase in 13:03.48 and  junior Christina Dobbins cleared the 5’1.75” bar in the women’s high jump. Freshman Lori Sandy cleared 10.98 meters in the women’s triple jump and sophomore Kerry Wright tossed a 148’1” in the women’s javelin throw. Senior Casey Monahan, crossed the 100-meter finish line in 11.17 seconds, as well as another second place finish and personal best in the 110-meter hurdles finishing in 14.93 seconds. Senior Keegan Shea who tossed the hammer 185’9” in the men’s hammer throw.

 

 

Shea’s mark also moved him into third place in the nation among Division III schools, but he has aspirations of doing even better.

 

“It was a season best and it keeps me up there in the national rankings,” Shea said. “But I am still a few meters off my personal best from last year, so it was bittersweet for me.”

 

Shea said his goals include helping the team win a fifth consecutive title and breaking the 60-meter mark to win a national championship individually.

 

More runner-ups include Green who cleared 15’9” in the men’s pole vault. Senior Jonathan Hoff leaped 22’3” in the men’s long jump, freshman Ryan Otterholt cleared 42’9.5” in the men’s triple jump and junior Matt Landon finished the men’s 400-meter dash in 51.51 seconds.

 

Landon was satisfied with his times despite having to battle more than just the competition.

 

“I feel pretty good about my time in the 400,” Landon said. “I’ve had a cold the last couple of days so I’m happy with that time considering I wasn’t feeling great.”

 

With the Northwest Conference Championships just a few weeks away, Landon has specific goals for the meet.

 

“As a team, we want to win conference and score 300 points,” Landon said. “Individually, my goal is to run under 11 seconds in the 100 [meter], and under 22 seconds in the 200 [meter].”

 

Among the Pirates’ third-place finishers were multiple relay teams including the men’s 4x100 A team consisting of freshman Boitu Nkonde, Monahan, freshman Elijah Varner and Hoff, crossed the finish line at the 42.4 second mark. The men’s 4x400 B team consisting of sophomore Westin Wiley, sophomore Grant McNeil, Varner and freshman anchor Lucas McGill crossed the finish line at the 3:41.53 mark, also good for a third-place finish.

 

Schwarz was pleased with his team’s performance and improvements.

 

“Against some really good competition our athletes stepped up and performed well. It’s always a process though,” Schwarz said. “If we went out the first meet and had the best performance of our lives, there would be no point.”

 

Next weekend, the Pirates will look to continue their success as they take part in the “World War #7” meet hosted by Spokane Falls Community College.

James Silberman Staff Writer

 

Softball dominates UPS in doubleheaders at home

The Whitworth softball team scored early and often last weekend in a four-game sweep of Puget Sound with an 8-0 shutout followed by a 19-0 dismantling of the Loggers in the second half of the Sunday doubleheader. Both games on Saturday ended with convincing wins, 9-1 and 6-2. The quartet of wins bring the Pirates to 18-6 on the season and 11-3 in conference. The first game began with a scoreless first inning for both teams, followed by freshman pitcher Madi Perez retiring the Loggers in order in the top of the second.

Then the Pirates opened up the flood of scoring.

Junior left fielder Peyton McMahon and sophomore right fielder Brittany Connor began the inning with a pair of singles followed by a two-RBI triple from senior shortstop Caylan Haehl to give Whitworth a 2-0 lead.

Another three-up, three-down inning from Perez kept the Loggers off the board while the Pirate offense used back-to-back doubles from Connor and McMahon to add three more runs to their lead.

The Pirates kept their offensive momentum going in the fourth with a sacrifice groundout from senior pitcher Taylor Gilbert followed by a two-run homer from senior first baseman Julia Johnson, her fifth on the season, to finish off the 8-0 victory.

Sophomore center fielder Alyssa Hall as well as McMahon were both 3-3 at the plate with a pair of runs apiece and Haehl was 2-2 with three runs batted in.

Perez improved to 9-3 on the season with a gem, tossing a complete-game shutout, giving up only two hits and striking out five.

Even though there had not been a close game in the series, head coach Cristal Brown said she wants her players to keep improving.

“We talk to the girls every day about going pitch-by-pitch,” Brown said. “Even if we happen to pull away in a game, they know that they still have to work hard because what they do pitch-by-pitch in this game is going to make them better in the next game.”

The Pirates were in fact able to improve on the 8-0 shutout as the second game turned into an even more lopsided victory than the first.

After a quick top of the first inning for the Pirate defense, their offense exploded, putting eight runs on the board before UPS could record an out.

After a single and two walks to load the bases, Johnson singled to center field scoring two. McMahon would keep the streak going with a single to left field, bringing the lead to 3-0. Then, following junior right fielder Sacha Clow being hit by a pitch, sophomore third baseman Bailey Kasler singled up the middle clearing the bases and giving the Pirates a 6-0 lead. Freshman catcher Kayla Batastini would then single, scoring Kasler. After that, a single from freshman shortstop Tessa Matthews, along with sophomore designated hitter Megan John being hit by another pitch, loaded the bases again.

Hall would then reach first on an error, scoring Batastini to take a seven-run lead and keeping the bases loaded. Gilbert would then groundout for the first out of the inning; however, Matthews would score on the play, extending the lead to 9-0. Johnson then hit a sacrifice fly to center scoring John, but Hall was doubled up at third trying to tag-up. Despite the late-inning mistake, the damage had been done as the Pirate offense had taken a commanding 10-0 first-inning lead.

Gilbert gave up the first of three UPS hits in the third inning, but once again no damage would be done by the Logger offense.

The second inning would be more of the same for the Pirate hitters as they plated six more runs, including a two-RBI single from sophomore first baseman Lyss Martinez.

After a scoreless third inning for both teams, and a 1-2-3 top of the fourth for junior pitcher Riley Fritz, Whitworth hitters showed their power in the bottom of the fourth.

A double down the left field line from Clow would score Martinez setting the stage for Kasler. Kasler took the 1-1 pitch and blasted it over the center field fence to extend the Pirates’ biggest offensive output of the season to 19 runs.

“I don’t even remember the pitch to be honest,” Kasler said. “I usually can’t remember what happened on most home runs I hit.”

Fritz retired UPS in the top of the fifth to close out the season sweep of the Loggers.

“We had good pitching, good defense and good hitting, but the hitting is definitely what made the difference,” Brown said. “Our bats came alive and we put a lot of runs on the board.”

Kasler led the Pirates with a 3-3 performance at the plate to go with four runs batted in and three runs scored. Batastini went 3-4 with a pair of RBI and runs scored while Matthews added three hits and a run.

Gilbert improved to 4-2 with the win recording three shutout innings while giving up only two hits and Fritz came in for her second save tossing two shutout innings while giving up just the one hit and striking out three.

Even though the scoreboard would indicate a pair of easy victories, the Pirates still believe they can improve.

“I think these games make us better,” Kasler said. “It’s easy to get complacent but we have to keep our intensity up.”

James Silberman Staff Writer

Contact James Silberman at jsilberman17@my.whitworth.edu

Baseball drops two in low-scoring series to PLU

The baseball team took home one win in the three-game series with Pacific Lutheran last weekend. A strong PLU pitching game turned out to be the determining factor in the first matchup, as junior Trevor Lubking pitched a complete game to hold Whitworth to one run in a 3-1 loss.

The second game of the doubleheader on Saturday was a different story as junior pitcher Cory Mack threw his best game of the season thus far, allowing only one hit and striking out six batters en route to a 4-0 shutout.

Head coach Dan Ramsay attributed the turnaround to Mack’s effort on the mound.

“He was better than them today,” Ramsay said. “He attacked hitters, did a good job of executing pitches, trusted his defense, I mean really all-around he just threw a great game.”

Mack’s pitching approach was no different than that of his usual approach, but this time around, things went really well, Mack said.

“I was pitching at contact, which means you just try and throw a strike and don’t try and do too much with what you do and just the team kind of get themselves out and that’s kind of how it went today and it was awesome,” Mack said.

The final game of the series ended with a heartbreaking 1-0 loss for the Pirates, as PLU scored on a Whitworth error in the top of the ninth for the only run of the game. Junior pitcher Spencer Ansett finished the game with three strikeouts and a walk, but left the game with a no-decision.

“We ran into a really good arm and pitching gave us a chance to win and we really just didn’t take advantage of opportunities,” Ansett said. “The biggest thing for us right now is that we need to just figure out how to put things together offensively and make in-game adjustments. Our guys know that and we’re excited to improve on it this week in practice.”

The Bucs will take on the NCAA Division III defending national champions in Linfield for another three-game series in McMinnville, Ore., March 22-23.

“They’re going to be another team that throws quality arms pretty much every game. We need to be ready for that. They’re going to be able to put runs up a bit better so it should be a tough series for sure and we’re looking forward to having another really competitive weekend,” Ansett said.

Connor Soudani Sports Editor

Contact Connor Soudani at csoudani16@my.whitworth.edu