The sting of two losses was colder than the weather last Saturday afternoon as the Whitworth baseball team fell short 8-1 and 10-5 in a doubleheader against George Fox University at Merkel Field. But the Pirates stole game three of the series, closing out the weekend with a 3-1 win on Sunday.
“I don’t think we were surprised by any means that they were a good team,” head coach Dan Ramsay said. “They outplayed us [but] I think the true testament to our team is how we came back.”
On Saturday, the Bucs faced tough pitching, including the Division III national pitcher of the week, and struggled to connect at the plate. Sophomore Tyler Pfeffer led Whitworth with two of the team’s six total hits in game one of the series, but his action at the plate wasn’t enough to energize the Pirate offense.
“Saturday we got down early,” freshman Nick Motsinger said. “We came out flat, and we didn’t have our bats going.”
Meanwhile, George Fox hammered the ball, scoring the first run of the day in the second inning. Whitworth freshman Spencer Ansett tossed for the Bucs for the first 5.2 innings, allowing five earned runs. Senior Brandon Ellendt relieved Ansett on the mound, pitching 2.1 innings of relief, giving up three earned runs off four hits. Sophomore Kash Hieb pitched the ninth inning.
“[George Fox] came out and swung their bats really good,” Pfeffer said. “Everything was going their way.”
Although they scored just one run, Whitworth found runners on base almost every inning. The Pirates scored when sophomore Gerhard Muelheims scored off of senior Landon Scott’s RBI grounder to second base. Despite their sub-par hitting, the Pirates committed zero errors in the first game.
The Bruins continued to rally at the dish in game two, taking a 7-1 lead in the first four innings. Whitworth scored its lone run in the second inning after Pfeffer singled to right field, advanced to third off senior Kevin Valerio’s double to right center, and was brought home on senior JR Jarrell’s RBI, but George Fox carried the momentum.
“They were scoring all nine innings,” Muelheims said. “Every time they got on base, they executed and got guys in.”
Pfeffer hit a two-run home run to right field in the fourth and sophomore Justin Liu and Valerio brought in two more runners in the eighth inning, yet the Bucs were unable to connect in the ninth.
Ramsay admitted the Pirates struggled to find any momentum, but as game two came to a close, was optimistic about Sunday’s game.
“We talk about championship Sunday,” Ramsay said. “Regardless of what happens on Saturday, we’re going to win Sunday.”
It seemed as if the Pirates did put Saturday’s losses behind them when they stepped on the field Sunday afternoon. Although George Fox scored the first runs of the final game of the series, it was Whitworth’s turn to manage the game.
Senior C.J. Perry tossed first for the Bucs, pitching five innings with just one unearned run and three hits. Freshman Dan Scheibe took the mound in the sixth, striking out four batters and not surrenduring any runs. Whitworth’s pitching played a major role in boosting the Pirates’ defense and translating their defensive momentum onto the offensive end.
“Today we competed all nine innings,” Motsinger said. “We wanted to put pressure on them, get our guys on base, make some runs, and get some steals.”
A double steal in the third inning tied the game at one apiece, and the Pirates controlled the game the rest of the way. After Perry pitched a 1-2-3 fourth inning, Whitworth took the lead when Davis singled to right center, bringing Scott in from third base.
“Our guys did a great job on defense,” Ramsay said. “We started down, [but] our guys chipped their way back into it.”
Again, the Pirates kept errors to a minimum, committing just one in the game and proving defensive dedication pays off against top competitive teams.
“[George Fox] is normally at the top of league and they’re a top opponent for us,” Pfeffer said. “[But] we kept them from executing.”
With the momentum on their side, Whitworth scored again in the seventh when freshman Preston Van Doren had an RBI to give Whitworth a two-run lead. Neither team scored in the final two innings.
“[Our momentum] started when we took the lead,” Ramsay said. “And it finally felt like the game was ours.”
Joshua Davis led the Pirates with three of his teams’ six total hits, and Scott contributed two hits to help Whitworth elude a three-game sweep.
Whitworth is now 8-4 in conference play. The Pirates continue Northwest Conference action at Lewis & Clark College on April 6 and 7.
Story by Corina Gebbers Staff Writer
Photography by Greg Moser
Contact Corina Gebbers at firstname.lastname@example.org.