Coach Ramsay reclaims program’s pride

The Whitworth baseball team hasn’t had an overall winning season in seven years. The team hasn’t been in the top three of the final Northwest Conference standings since the 2001 season, and the Bucs haven’t won a conference title since the 1991 season.

This season is a different story.  With the sweep of Whitman College this weekend, the Pirates finished the regular season atop the Northwest Conference standings along with Pacific University. It is the first conference championship for the Bucs in 11 years.

The program’s conference championship is the culmination of a turnaround that has been building for a while under fourth-year head coach Dan Ramsay, who is The Whitworthian’s choice for 2011-2012 Coach of the Year.

“He is a great guy to be around and have a voice on the team,” senior pitcher James King said. “The passion he has for the game, he lives and breathes baseball. That’s what you want to see out of a coach. He’s making the program as good as it can be.”

Ramsay, hired as head coach in 2009, has led the Pirates to back-to-back 20 win seasons, including a conference title this season. The Pirates’ 26 wins this season are the most wins for a Pirate team since the 1989 season, when the Bucs also won 26 games. Heading into postseason play, Whitworth has a chance to set the school record for wins in a single season.

Even though Ramsay has a four-year record of 66-86-1, he has steadily improved the team over the years.

“We won 10 games my first year, then 13, 20 and now we’re at 23,” Ramsay said. “I came in at 22 [years old] with hardly any coaching experience and I have learned something every year.”

A major part of the team’s success has been because of the offense. Whitworth is in the top three in the Northwest Conference in runs, hits, RBI’s, batting average, doubles and home runs.

An even bigger contribution to this season is how Ramsay has built the team over the past four years.

“I think it’s been a trickle-down effect,” Ramsay said. “It starts at the top with the people we have in our program  — coaches and assistant coaches to players. It’s a good fit with personality and the personnel is a good fit for the team.”

One of those good trickle-down moves has been pitching coach Brandon Harmon.

“One of the biggest things that Coach has done is bring in [pitching coach] Brandon Harmon,” King said. “Thing’s were rough for pitching his first couple of years, but Brandon helped improve our pitching a lot.”

Recruiting quality freshman talent has been a staple in the Ramsay years, with no exception this season. Freshman pitchers have locked down opponents this season. Team leaders in strikeouts, wins and saves are all freshman players. The seniors who Ramsay recruited in his first year, though, have set the tone for the team’s success.

“The seniors have been impact players,” Ramsay said. “It’s been cool to see the work they put in over the years has been starting to pay off. They laid the expectations for the rest of the players and where we are has a lot to do with those individuals.”

Ramsay started his Pirate career as a player in 2007 when he was a catcher, earning Second-Team All-NWC in 2007 and Honorable-Mention All-NWC in 2008. Ramsay, having only been five years removed from playing the game, uses that as an advantage.

“He relates to players really well,” senior third baseman Landon Scott said. “He is a younger guy that understands the mental part of the game and knows what the players are going through.”

Ramsay said the culture of Whitworth baseball has changed dramatically from his playing days.

“When I played here there were times when I didn’t want to wear my baseball cap around campus because I didn’t want people to ask how we did that weekend. I didn’t want to tell them that we always lost,” Ramsay said. “That’s not the case now. People are excited about this team. I get people coming up to me wanting to buy baseball caps, and everyone wears their gear around campus.”

As evident with the recent turnaround of the program and conference championship, the culture has changed and Whitworth baseball has regained swagger.

“My expectations for the players at the beginning of the season were if they didn’t want to win a championship, then I don’t want them on this team,” Ramsay said.

With the sweep of the Missionaries this weekend, the Pirates have been able to celebrate with a dog-pile. With Ramsay at the helm, Whitworth now heads into the National Division III Tournament representing the Northwest Conference.

 

Story by Nathan Webber Staff Writer

Photographer: Greg Moser

 

Contact Nathan Webber at nathanwebber14@my.whitworth.edu.

Baseball takes on Pacific for NWC lead

In a Northwest Conference baseball show down last weekend, second place Whitworth met conference leader Pacific on Merkel Field in a best out-of-three game series that went to the wire. The Pirates were topped 6-2 by the Boxers in the opening game Saturday, but took control in the nightcap, gaining a 7-1 victory that boosted them to 3-1 win on Sunday.

“We haven’t been in the situation to win the conference in a very long time,” senior catcher Michael Takemura said. “We started a little slow but I think the confidence came when the series got going.”

After sophomore second baseman Gerhard Muelheims doubled in the first inning, senior third baseman Landon Scott drove him home on a single that put the first run on the board for either team.

“We thought we’d be able to keep adding on after that first run,” Muelheims said. “[But] their pitcher was throwing really well [and] we had a tough time seeing the ball.”

But Pacific answered with a flurry of runs over the next three innings, scoring six runs, while Whitworth struggled to connect at the plate.

Freshman shortstop Nick Motsinger got the offense rolling with a single to third base in the sixth inning, and Whitworth scored its second run off sophomore left fielder Tyler Pfeffer’s sacrifice fly to right field.

“I thought the first game we were a little tight [but] the second game we played pretty loose,” Takemura said. “These games didn’t mean anything unless we won them out.”

After freshman pitcher Carson Blumenthal tossed the first four innings, freshman pitcher Nick Scourey stepped on the mound and shut out Pacific in five innings of relief. But the Pirates were unable to close in on the Boxers’ lead, and with the loss surrendered the top spot in the conference to Pacific for now; final conference standings have not been determined.

“Everyone was disappointed we lost,” Muelheims said. “But we’ve lost the first game of a series before and ended up winning the next two games.”

Whitworth grabbed an early 2-0 lead in game two after Motsinger walked and Pfeffer singled up the middle to score Motsinger in the first inning. Miller singled to right field in the second inning, advanced to second base on a balk, then to third when senior center fielder Kevin Valerio grounded out to second base, and scored on freshman right fielder Erik Nikssarian’s single to left field.

“I think this whole year we’ve done a great job coming back from losses,” Takemura said. “We wanted to punch back.”

Pfeffer’s three-run homer in the third and Nikssarian’s homerun in the fourth boasted a 6-0 lead for the Bucs. Senior first baseman JR Jarrell’s RBI single brought Pfeffer home again in the fifth inning to score Whitworth’s final run.

Freshman pitcher Dan Scheibe pitched a full game, striking out 12 batters with no walks. In his past two pitching performances  for the Bucs he has struck out 25 batter without a walk, and his presence on the mound Saturday secured the win for the Pirates, as Pacific scored just one run off six hits.

“The second game Dan threw great,” Takemura said. “He gave us a lot of confidence by shutting them down.”

It took until the fourth inning for either team to earn a run on Sunday, but after Scott singled to center field, he scored off Valerio’s sacrifice fly. Jarrell got on base with a single up the middle, and then scored thanks to Nikssarian’s RBI single through the left side.

“I think it was pretty key that we got on the board first,” Muelheims said. “Scoring those two runs was big especially because it was right after an inning where they had the bases loaded and we struck their guy out.”

Whitworth’s final run came in the fifth when Takemura was hit by a pitch, advanced to second when Motsinger grounded out to the catcher, and scored off Muelheims RBI single to center field.

Pacific also scored in the fifth, plating their lone run of the game. But the Boxers had several opportunities to take the lead, leaving 13 runners on base by game’s end.

“In the dugout the players knew we were going to win,” Takemura said. “But we gave [Pacific] too many shots.”

Spencer Ansett pitched the first six innings, allowing one run off seven hits. Jason Renner finished the game, grabbing his sixth save of the season.

“We used a lot of the momentum we had from the second game [on Saturday],” Muelheims said. “Holding those guys to one run took away some of their confidence.”

Whitworth improved its record to 13-5 in NWC action, just one game behind Pacific in conference standings, and will face Willamette University in Salem, Ore., April 21 and 22.

 

Story by Corina Gebbers Staff Writer

Photography by Chrissy Roach

 

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

Pirates split final conference matches

Fourth-seeded men’s tennis set to take on Whitman in NWC tournament

The Pirate men’s tennis team finished the regular season this past weekend, earning a victory against Lewis & Clark College on Friday but losing a close contest to George Fox University on Saturday at the Scotford Tennis Center.

The Pirates also played a couple of non-conference matches earlier in the week — an exhibition match against the Community Colleges of Spokane and a home match against Lewis-Clark State College where Whitworth fell 9-0.

“It’s a lot of matches but we still have to go out and play,” sophomore Dustin McConnell said. “At this level you need to be prepared for the long matches and do the best you can to fight through.”

Whitworth finished the regular season with an 8-4 Northwest Conference record and an 11-8 record overall. The Bucs will take on Whitman next weekend in the first round of the Northwest Conference Tournament in Walla Walla, Wash.

“Playing Whitman is always fun because they’re always a challenge,” junior Cameron Williams said. “We gained some information last time we played them and developed some strategies around that. Now we want to implement that and finish strong.”

Whitworth started off the week with an exhibition match on Monday April 9 at the Community Colleges of Spokane. Whitworth played most of its reserve players in the exhibition, which ended in a 4-4 tie.

“We got to see guys play that don’t normally get to,” Williams said. “It’s exciting to watch them succeed on the on court.”

The day after the CCS match, the Bucs took on the Warriors of Lewis-Clark State College, falling 9-0 to the NAIA foes.

Two singles matches went to the third set, including No. 1 singles player Daniel Redfern who fell 4-6, 6-0, 6-3. The other was freshman Chris Engelmann who lost in No. 5 singles 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Two of the three doubles matches were within four games of each other as well, but the Warriors were too much for the Pirates.

On Friday the Pirates went back to finish up the regular season conference schedule when the team defeated Lewis & Clark College 7-2.

Redfern and junior Micah Spaun came through in the first match of the day as the two beat out the Boxers No. 1 doubles team 9-7.

“I felt really good about how we played doubles on Friday,” Redfern said. “It felt good to get that win considering how close it was.”

The two teams split the first four contests but Whitworth responded with five straight singles wins to close out the match. No. 2 singles player Spaun and McConnell, playing No. 3 singles, each won their matches decisively, both beating their opponents 6-1, 6-2.

The Pirates closed out the regular season at home on Saturday with a close 5-4 loss to the Bruins of George Fox University.

Redfern and Spaun had another close doubles match, this time coming up just short in a 9-7 loss.

“We lost a pretty tough one on Saturday,” Redfern said. “We almost had the match, but we lost a little momentum towards the end.”

After taking a 3-2 lead in the match, the Bruins took the No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 singles contests, dooming the Pirates. Cameron Williams had one of the more inspiring wins in the match. Williams took the first set 6-4 against the No. 2 Bruin singles player but fell behind early in the second.

“I sat down with my coach and he had me focus on my breathing,” Williams said, after being down 4-1 in the second set. “It loosened me up and got me back in my groove.”

Williams came back and won the set 7-5, his eighth singles win of the year.

The Pirates will have a week to prepare for Whitman College, the eighth-ranked team in the nation. This is a rematch of the contest that was won by the Missionaries 9-0 on March 31.

“Personally I’m looking forward to playing their No. 1 (singles) player again, he’s the best in the conference,” Redfern said.  “We also have a new lineup for the match so we’ll see how that goes.”

The match will be played at the Bratton Tennis Center at Whitman College on April 21.

 

Story by Nathan Webber Staff Writer

Photography by Hope Barnes (Top) and Greg Moser (Bottom)

 

Contact Nathan Webber at nathanwebber13@my.whitworth.edu.

Men's tennis secures spot in Northwest Conference Tournament

The Pirate men’s tennis team clinched a spot in the Northwest Conference Tournament over the weekend after claiming two key victories over Willamette University and Linfield College on Friday and Saturday. “Winning these two matches was huge,” junior Cameron Williams said. “Willamette was a very tough team and we clinched the post-season with the wins so it was a huge confidence booster for us.”

The Pirates, who improved to 7-3 in the Northwest Conference and 10-6 overall, only lost three matches all weekend and have won five of their last six conference matches.

“We had a great trip,” head coach Mike Shanks said. “We pulled out a great win versus the No. 2 team in the conference last year, Willamette, and got into a good rhythm today against Linfield. It was a very satisfying trip.”

The match went back and forth on Friday but the Pirates finished strong as the bottom three singles players took the last three matches, finishing off the Bearcats.

After dropping the competitive first doubles match of the day, the Bucs took the next two to gain an early 2-1 lead.

Williams and sophomore Dustin McConnell made quick work of the Bearcats’ No. 2 doubles team, winning 8-1. Seniors Ben Hamming and Stefan Dernbach broke the 1-1 tie in doubles with an 8-3 win in the No. 3 slot.

After Willamette junior Joshua Wong helped defeat senior Daniel Redfern in doubles, Redfern returned the favor in No. 1 singles by beating Wong 3-6, 7-5. Wong retired before the conclusion of the third set, giving Redfern the win.

“My opponent started cramping and it just got really bad so he had to retire,” Redfern said. “We got out to a good start in the match though, which was huge. It’s nice to know for sure you made the post-season.” The Pirates dropped the next two match ups, tying the match at three. The No. 4 and No. 5 singles matches each went into three sets but the Pirates pulled out both of them, sealing the victory.

In the No. 4 singles match, Hamming beat Bearcat sophomore Will Cooper 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 and in the No. 5 singles match sophomore John Talbot overpowered Willamette sophomore Will Agnew-Svoboda for the 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win.

Freshman Chris Engelmann added one more win to the Pirates total, defeating Willamette freshman Jack Schreiber 6-1, 6-1.

“We had four of our six singles matches go into three sets,” Williams said. “They might have had the upper hand but we regrouped after the rain delay and pulled out the victory.”

Saturday the Bucs fought through some close matches to claim the 9-0 victory over the Linfield Wildcats.

Redfern and junior Micah Spaun got Whitworth on the board with an 8-4 win in No. 1 doubles and No. 2 and No. 3 doubles followed suit as the Bucs swept the Wildcats doubles teams.

Redfern added another win on the board as he beat Linfield junior Zach Lyons 7-6 (7-5), 6-2. This was Redfern’s 12th singles win of the season and 20th win overall.

Williams had a similar match as he defeated the Wildcats No. 2 singles player 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.

The rest of the singles matches went smoothly as no other Linfield player won more than three games in a set.

“This was the last road trip of the season for us so it was great to end it like that,” Williams said.

Whitworth will have two nonconference games April 9 and 10 against the Community Colleges of Spokane and Lewis-Clark State College before playing the last two conference matches at home April 13 and 14.

 

Story by Nathan Webber Staff Writer

Contact Nathan Webber at nathanwebber13@my.whitworth.edu.