Baseball crowned kings of the diamond

Whitworth co-conference champions, ties school record for wins in a season

Sundays have officially become the Whitworth baseball team’s favorite day of the week. After sweeping Whitman College in a three game series this past weekend, the Bucs earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament, their first ever appearance.

“For the program, this is huge,” senior first baseman JR Jarrell said. “When I was here as a freshman, we won 10 games total and now, four years later, we’re conference champs.”

Pacific stood in first place until a Boxer loss on Saturday allowed the tie. Whitworth holds the advantage against the Boxers in head-to-head play, which earns it the automatic bid in the tie situation.

Whitworth opened Saturday’s doubleheader with a 7-4 win.

“We knew going into the weekend that we’d have to get the sweep in order to win conference,” said senior third baseman Landon Scott. “We went out and got the job done.”

Freshman Dan Scheibe pitched a complete game for the Bucs and allowed Whitman just two hits in the first six innings. The Missionaries broke through in the top of the seventh, tying up the score when they rallied for all four of their runs.

“It wasn’t the greatest game defensively,” freshman shortstop Nick Motsinger said. “But offensively we did a fairly good job executing.”

Whitworth answered with four hits and three runs of its own to take the final lead of the game.

Neither team got on base in the eighth inning and after Whitman managed a single hit in the ninth, Scheibe secured the win for the Bucs with his 11th strikeout of the game.

“[Scheibe’s] been great for four straight weeks,” Scott said. “Whenever he pitches we feel like we’re going to win the game.”

Whitworth breezed past the Missionaries in game two, with a dominating 13-2 victory and earning the first place tie spot with Pacific.

Jarrell led the way with four hits which included his third home run of the season. Motsinger collected five RBIs with a two-run double, two-run single and a RBI sacrifice bunt.

“It’s really helpful for our pitchers’ confidence when we put up runs and get up early,” Motsinger said. “Keeping the pressure going all nine innings translated to good results on the defensive end.”

The Bucs took an early 2-0 lead when Jarrell’s single to center field scored Muelheims and then Niksarrian hit a single to right field to score Scott.

“The second game we put it on them really quick,” Motsinger said. “[We] put up runs every single inning, which is what you have to do to put a team away.”

In the sixth, Whitman loaded the bases with no outs, but freshman pitcher Carson Blumenthal struck out two in a row and then got the last batter to ground out. The Pirate offense responded with three runs of their own off a Motsinger double and Scott single.

Jarrell’s homer came in the seventh and Whitworth wrapped up its doubleheader sweep with four runs off three hits in the eighth inning. Motsinger drove a two-run single to center field, scoring the final two runners of the game for the Bucs.

“They kind of jumped back up on us when we had gotten comfortable,” Jarrell said. “But we executed like we needed to and got big hits like we needed to.”

Blumenthal tossed eight innings for Whitworth, allowing one run off six hits, while striking out six batters and giving up four walks. Senior James King pitched one inning of relief and gave up one run off three hits.

Sunday’s contest was the determining factor for Whitworth’s share of the NWC title and Whitman made the Bucs earn it. In a down-to-the-wire final game of the three-game series, Whitworth defeated the Missionaries 8-7, improving their record to 19-5 in NWC action and tying the school record with 26 games won in a single season.

“It’s the first conference championship since 1991,” Scott said. “At the end of the day, winning conference, you can’t really explain the excitement.”

The Bucs took a 3-1 lead after three innings.

“I think offensively we executed pretty well,” Jarrell said. “We put up enough runs to win but it was a lot closer than any of us wanted it to be.”

Whitman took a 4-3 lead in the top of the sixth, but the Bucs answered in the bottom of the inning with five runs to regain the lead.

“I thought we were pressuring [ourselves] a little bit today,” Motsinger said. “Even though we had the lead we weren’t as loose as we have been in past games.”

Whitman challenged the Bucs’ lead again when it scored three runs in the eighth, but Whitworth was able to hold on and capture the one-run victory.

CJ Perry started for the Bucs and threw four innings, giving up one run off three hits. Taylor Isadore came in for just over an inning and allowed three runs off four hits before freshman Spencer Ansett pitched two innings and gave up three runs off two hits. Sophomore Jason Renner closed the game for the Bucs in one inning of relief, allowing no runs and one hit to earn the save.

“Today was senior day so CJ got the start,” Scott said. “Taylor Isadore is tied for the team lead in appearances, Ansett will keep us in the game every time and Renner has been our shut down guy all year.”

Whitworth celebrated its biggest win on Merkel Field in 20 years with a dog-pile near the pitcher’s mound and will travel to Linfield College May 16-20 for the West Regional games of the National Division III Tournament.

 

Story by Corina Gebbers Staff Writer

Photographer: Hope Barnes   

 

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

Track and field performs at NCAA meet

Three members of the Whitworth track and field team traveled to Grinnell, Iowa, to compete in the NCAA Division III Indoor Championships on March 9 and 10.

Junior Carter Comito competed in the shot put at the championship meet. He was seeded sixth going into the event and finished in seventh, earning an All-American title with a throw of 54-4 3/4.

“It was pretty good,” Comito said. “I’m happy because I took All-American, but I wish I could have done better.”

Sophomore Jheri Gates competed in high jump for the championships, and was seeded 10th going into the event. She finished in 11th place, clearing 5-3.

“I did not do as well as I had hoped,” Gates said. “It was really tough for me because I was off for Jan Term, and came back four weeks behind.”

Junior Frank Lima also competed in high jump, going into the event seeded 13th and placing 10th. He cleared 6-8 3/4. The athletes in fifth through 10th place all cleared the same height, and final placing had to be decided by the number of misses per round.

Lima said he thought the event went fairly well.

“It was not as good as I would have liked to have done,” Lima said. “I was able to tie my PR which was nice. All the contestants were really nice and really easy to talk to.”

Head coach Toby Schwarz also said that overall the championship meet went well.

“All three athletes performed well, considering the various circumstances,” Schwarz said. “Each athlete learns from their own experience every time they come to nationals. All three will learn from what they did here, and hopefully will do better.”

Gates said she loved the atmosphere of the championship meet.

“[The meet] is a higher level of competition,” Gates said. “It is really neat to be involved in.”

Comito said he also enjoyed the championship meet, as it was his first time at the indoor championships and he thought his All-American title was a good way to end the indoor season. He said he loves track because it is such a relaxed sport.    “It’s not super intense all the time,” Comito said. “At practice it’s pretty laid back. We can just have fun.”

Lima said the indoor season was very productive for him.

“I started off a little shaky,” he said. “As the season progressed I was able to improve. To make it to nationals for the first time is very good.”

Schwarz said the next week will be a struggle for the team.

“Coming into Spring Break and midterms everyone gets run-down,” Schwarz said. “Last week and this coming week are the most stressful weeks of the Whitworth year.”

However, Schwarz said he is excited about both the men’s and women’s team for the outdoor season.

“[The men’s is] arguably the best team we’ve ever had. They have great quality and depth,” Schwarz said. “When it comes to the women, there are lots of question marks. They’re a very young team. [The coaches] saw some things at Willamette that were exciting.”

The Pirates will compete March 17 in the Dusty Lane Open at Spokane Community College, and then again on March 18 in the Oregon Preview in Eugene, Ore.

Story by Meghan Dellinger Staff Writer

File photos by Jeff Ferguson

Contact Meghan Dellinger at mdellinger15@my.whitworth.edu.

A taste of sweetness for men’s basketball

Pirates into the NCAA Division III Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season

The Whitworth men’s basketball team found something sweet in Belton, Texas, on March 2 and 3 when it knocked McMurry University and Trinity University out of the NCAA Division III Tournament. The Pirates improved their record to 26-3 overall and for the third consecutive year are headed to the Sweet 16.

The Bucs found an advantage in the paint against a quick and scrappy McMurry defense Friday night as senior post Felix Friedt scored a career-high 35 points to lead the Pirates to a 90-79 victory over the War Hawks. Friedt went 16 for 17 from the line and 9 for 16 from the field.

“Felix was tremendous throughout the night,” head coach Matt Logie said. “With the amount of pressure that McMurry puts on the basketball, it was very important that we had an outlet inside to relieve that pressure.”

Senior forward Jack Loofburrow hit a 3-pointer to regain the lead after McMurry tied the game at nine five minutes into the first half. The War Hawks were quick to answer, scoring six points to Whitworth’s two. As the top rebounding team in the nation, McMurry challenged Whitworth on the boards.

“The plan was to crash the glass with all five players,” Friedt said. “It was a rough battle, but we had everyone fight together.”

Friedt scored his 10th point of the half with 10 minutes to go off a three-point play. Sophomore guard Dustin McConnell scored a bucket for the Pirates to help energize a run, and Whitworth went up 29-22 when junior guard Wade Gebbers earned his first points of the game on a drive to the basket.

The War Hawks weren’t easily shut down and went on a 10-4 run against the Bucs. It was senior forward Idris Lasisi who broke the McMurry momentum when he threw down a message-sending dunk off an assist from McConnell. Then with just six seconds remaining in the half, Lasisi hit a baseline jumper to give the Pirates a 41- 37 advantage.

“In the first half we got rushed,”Friedt said.“But[we] played more controlled in the second half.”

Whitworth scored in bunches to stretch its lead to as many as 11 points after halftime. Friedt had five consecutive points, Gebbers drove the lane and scored, and sophomore guard Colton McCargar came off the bench contributing five points to open up the second half for the Bucs. McMurry would answer with its own flurry of baskets, but Whitworth held its own and sustained the lead the entire half.

“We were able to maintain our lead throughout the second half and withstand a few runs from McMurry despite making some uncharacteristic turnovers,” Logie said.

With just six minutes remaining, the War Hawks bounced back to within six points and by the 2:30 mark were within four points of Whitworth’s lead. Lasisi scored four consecutive points to fuel Whitworth late in the game, and Friedt put away the game for good with four points from the foul line in the final minute of play.

Whitworth outrebounded McMurry 41-38 and shot 82 percent from the stripe to earn a spot in Saturday night’s game. Lasisi scored 15 points for the Bucs, while Gebbers added 11 and McConnell dished three assists.

In Saturday night’s matchup against Trinity, Whitworth’s strong defense carried them 64-53 over the Tigers. Trinity came in confident after upsetting the No. 10-ranked host school University of Mary Hardin-Baylor the night before.

“We executed really well defensively and didn’t give them many easy looks,” Lasisi said.

Whitworth came out energized, finding an 8-3 lead off a Friedt bucket and treys by Lasisi and junior forward Mack Larkin. The Bucs were sparked by 17 of Lasisi’s game-high 22 points to maintain a steady lead throughout the first half.

“We are fortunate that the NWC plays its league games on Friday and Saturdays,” Logie said. “We are very accustomed to the quick turnarounds and how to go about preparing ourselves for those situations.”

Lasisi opened the second half with two 3-pointers, but the Bucs’ offensive momentum decelerated and Trinity made a huge comeback, closing the 20-point gap to just three with under seven minutes remaining.

“We rushed things on offense and had some turnovers,” Lasisi said. “Because of our bad offense we weren’t as focused as we should be on defense.”

Whitworth called a timeout in an attempt to freeze the Tigers’ offensive streak. Loofburrow responded by netting eight points.

“Our players really responded on the defensive end following that break and put some stops together which got us going offensively,” Logie said.

Loofburrow’s surge for the Bucs was enough to help Whitworth regain a 13-point lead, and execution on the defensive end denied Trinity any comeback opportunity.

Whitworth kept the Tigers off the free throw line for the entire first half, while also forcing its opponent to shoot 38 percent from the field. Loofburrow contributed 13 points for the Bucs on the offensive end, while Friedt added 12 and Gebbers dished seven assists.

Whitworth will face Virginia Wesleyan College in the Sweet 16 on March 9 in the Sectional Semifinals at Wisconsin-Whitewater in Wisconsin.

Story by Corina Gebbers Staff Writer

File Photos Chrissy Roach

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