Whitworth celebrated ten seniors on their club and did so in winning fashion by wrapping up the regular season with a three-game sweep of the Willamette Bearcats. In the process, the Pirates clinched a berth in the inaugural Northwest Conference baseball playoff tournament, which will be hosted by Pacific Lutheran this weekend. Whitworth senior Dan Scheibe got the ball rolling on Saturday, fanning nine Willamette batters in just over six innings of work, while allowing only two runs to score. Scheibe now has 295 career strikeouts in his Whitworth career.
The Pirates got solid relief efforts from freshman T.J. Orchard and senior Carson Blumenthal en route to winning the first game of the day on Saturday, 5-3.
Whitworth’s offense in the game came from a two-run double by senior Thomas Wakem in the second inning, solo home runs by senior Nick Motsinger and senior Josh Davis in the fourth and seventh innings, respectively, and an RBI single from junior Skyler Lookabill in the seventh inning.
It was after that first victory that the Pirates had clinched their berth into the Northwest Conference playoffs.
The game of the weekend – from a purist baseball viewer’s perspective – was the second game of the Saturday doubleheader. Whitworth mounted a three-run ninth inning comeback, all sparked by a pinch hitter.
Whitworth senior Spencer Ansett was roughed up a bit, allowing seven runs in six and two-thirds innings of work. However, the Pirates were able to stay close with the Bearcats, entering the ninth inning down by a pair of runs with the middle of the order coming up.
After senior Josh Davis and sophomore Matt Nelson singled to start the inning, Whitworth coach Dan Ramsay sent freshman Brett Moser to pinch-run for Nelson, and Lookabill to the plate to pinch hit. With those substitutions, Whitworth would have had some players play out of position on defense if the game went into extra innings.
“To be honest, I hadn’t thought that far ahead,” Ramsay said. “There’s something special about (Lookabill), I knew he’d pull through for us.”
Lookabill was attempting to sacrifice the runners into scoring position with a bunt. After the second strike on him, Willamette’s catcher Jacob Parra tried to pick-off Davis from second base. The ball was thrown away, and the Pirates runners moved into scoring position.
“I wasn’t really thinking, which is probably a good thing. If I was thinking anything, it was just that I was grateful to get a second chance,” Lookabill said.
On the 0-2 pitch, Lookabill shot a grounder through the middle of the infield to drive in the two runs to tie the game at seven. The Pirates were then able to sacrifice Lookabill to third base. Willamette elected to intentionally walk a pair of Pirate players to load the bases, so there were force outs at every base.
With two outs, senior Nick Motsinger came to the plate with the bases loaded. Motsinger waited out the Bearcats pitcher and earned a walk, which forced in Lookabill for the game-winning run.
After those two big wins on Saturday, the Pirates returned to the field Sunday for Senior Day, where they honored the team’s ten senior players. Before the game, the team got a surprise when faculty advisor Eric Sartell showed up at Merkel Field. Sartell had been teaching abroad in the British Isles for the past month.
“I took a red-eye flight to get back yesterday. There was no way I was going to miss Senior Day,” Sartell said.
After a ceremony honoring the seniors before the game, the Pirates came out on fire, scoring four runs in the first inning of the game. Senior Cory Mack lasted seven innings for the Pirates on the mound, allowing four runs (two earned).
“I felt really good today,” Mack said. “Other than the home run – which I’m impressed with how (Willamette senior Tiras Koon) was able to take a slider that was at his feet and put it over the wall – today was a great day.”
After Mack exited the game, Coach Ramsay handed the ball to senior Nick Scourey for the final two innings. “It was surreal. I’ve been struggling lately, and to be able to come out and pound the zone like that was good for me, especially with it being my last time here at Merkel Field,” Scourey said.
The Pirates closed out the game with a win 11-4, completing their fourth conference sweep of the season. Whitworth finished the season with a 25-13 record overall, 16-8 in the Northwest Conference. Whitworth will travel to Pacific Lutheran on Friday for the Northwest Conference tournament and will take on Linfield in the first round.