Bucs stay in conference title contention with weekend sweep of pioneers

After NAIA powerhouse Lewis-Clark State edged past the Whitworth baseball team 9-8 in extra innings last Tuesday, the Bucs rolled past Lewis & Clark College in a three-game sweep Friday and Saturday. Whitworth improved its record to 17-10-1 overall and 11-4 in Northwest Conference action, and now sit just two games behind first place Pacific University. Despite taking an 8-5 lead in a late rally on Tuesday night, the Bucs fell 9-8 to host Lewis-Clark State in the 13th inning.

“We were proud of how our guys battled and played last Tuesday,” said head coach Dan Ramsay. “Tough games like that help develop our team’s character and bring us closer together.”

Whitworth trailed 3-0 after six innings but took the lead with a five-run rally in the seventh. Senior third baseman Landon Scott was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to bring in the first run, followed by an RBI single to left field from freshman designated hitter Paul Miller, an RBI ground out by senior first baseman JR Jarrell, and a two-run single from freshman catcher Josh Davis.

The Warriors answered with two runs in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game 5-5, but the Bucs took advantage of three Lewis-Clark errors in the eighth and scored another three runs. Lewis-Clark sent the game into extra innings and took the win when, with bases loaded, senior pitcher Nick Combo walked the Warrior batter on a 3-2 count to force in the winning run for Lewis-Clark.

“We battled them tough to come back and make a good game of it,” freshman pitcher Dan Scheibe said. “The intensity of our extra innings battle with them will probably prove valuable later on down the road in other high-intensity situations.”

In Friday night’s game, sophomore left fielder Tyler Pfeffer hit his eighth and ninth home runs of the season to drive the visiting Bucs 9-1 past Lewis & Clark in the first game of the weekend.

Pfeffer’s first homer boosted Whitworth to a 3-0 lead in the third inning, and his second scored three more runs in the fifth. Senior center fielder Kevin Valerio followed with a single up the left field line, extending the Pirates’ lead to eight.

“Tyler’s two three-run home runs were huge in terms of momentum in game one,” Ramsay said. “Our ability to score runs increases when we execute on offense.”

Miller claimed his first home run as a Buc in the seventh inning to give Whitworth a 9-0 lead over the Pioneers. Lewis & Clark’s sole run came off an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth.

Scheibe was the starting pitcher for the Bucs and struck out eight straight batters in Saturday’s opener, helping Whitworth to a 6-2 win over the Pioneers. He tossed seven innings for the Bucs, allowing one run off five hits and striking out 13 batters. Jason Renner relieved Scheibe, pitching the final one and one-third innings.

“I was hitting spots and getting stronger as the game went on,” Scheibe said. “It’s easy to go out and throw when I’ve got confidence in my hitters to pick me up and have my back offensively.”

Whitworth led 3-1 after three innings off an RBI single by Valerio, a Lewis & Clark error, and an RBI single by Scott. Sophomore second baseman Gerhard Muelheims scored off freshman short-stop Nick Motsinger’s RBI single to first base in the sixth inning, Jarrell scored in the seventh when Lewis & Clark’s pitcher hit senior catcher Michael Takemura with the bases loaded, and Valerio scored the Pirate’s final run off freshman right fielder Thomas Wakem’s RBI single up the middle in the ninth.

“We respected Lewis & Clark as a club and knew that if we backed down they could come up and beat us,” Scheibe said. “The key was showing up and playing our game, and we were able to do that for the most part.”

But after cruising past the Pioneers in games one and two, Whitworth played 10 innings in the final game of the series after Lewis & Clark rallied back from an 8-4 deficit to tie the game 8-8 in the ninth.

“[Lewis & Clark] is a young team with some talented players,” Ramsay said. “We knew they weren't going to roll over and knew they were going to put up a fight.”

But Jarrell stepped to the plate in the 10th inning with the bases loaded and polished off the three-game sweep with a grand slam over the left field wall.

“Game three's big momentum changer was obviously JR’s grand slam in the top of the 10th,” Ramsay said.

The Bucs are set to host Central Washington University on April 10 in a double-header makeup game before facing Pacific on Merkel Field April 14 and 15.

“[Friday and Saturday’s games] will be some of the most important baseball games we've had on our campus in 20 years,” Ramsay said. “It would be awesome to have a ton of support and get as many fans out to the field as possible.”

Whitworth currently stands second in the NWC behind Pacific, so the winner of Friday and Saturday’s series could potentially be the champion of the conference.

 

Story by Corina Gebbers Staff Writer

Contact Corina Gebbers at cgebbers15@my.whitworth.edu.

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