Baseball ends season first in conference

Whitworth’s baseball team took two games of the three game series at Willamette this weekend, clinching the Northwest Conference regular season crown. After a tough 8-7 extra inning loss in game one, the Pirates upended the Bearcats 7-2 in the nightcap and 3-2 on Sunday. The first game was a dramatic one as both teams gave up sizable leads late in the game. After leading 4-3 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, Willamette had two walks and a hit batter come around to score courtesy of the double by Ty Wyatt. The Pirates’ last chance at the plate resulted in a string of three runs to take the lead.

But the Bearcats responded tying the game before going on to win the first game in the tenth inning, 8-7.

Whitworth coach Dan Ramsay told his players not to let the first game get to his team.

“We showed a lot of fight that game but just had some things that didn’t go our way,” Ramsay says.

On Saturday, the Pirates responded well. Freshman Ryan Kingma (7-2) picked up the victory throwing eight innings of one run baseball and allowing only three hits and two walks.

Collectively, the Pirates had a batting average of .321 over the weekend and added four home runs to the team total. Senior Jeremey Druffel had an especially productive weekend, finishing seven for 14 with three doubles and three RBIs.

That game helped promise Whitworth at least a share of the conference title and the hosting of the tournament at Merkel Field.

Sophomore TJ Orchard started Sunday’s rubber match, seeking to claim the conference title outright. The game started off rocky when Whitworth fell to 2-0 in the first. The Bearcats led through six innings.

“I was a little jumpy in the first inning and missed a couple of spots,” Orchard said. “I ended up shutting the door by getting my pitches where I wanted them, low in the zone.”

Orchard (6-1) held the Bearcats scoreless for the next seven innings allowing Whitworth to take a 3-2 on a Druffel RBI. With that, the Pirates were able to hold on and take the regular season title on their own.

Winning the conference crown was an awesome feeling, especially considering the changes the team underwent in the off season losing a lot of seniors, Druffel said.

“Just a whole different group of guys from last year, I didn’t know what to expect coming in,” Druffel said.

This Pirate team has a blend of postseason experience and young talent which hope to make them a tough opponent in conference play opening up this Friday, April 22.

Whitworth will take on the Pacific Boxers at noon in their home ballpark, Merkel Field.

Coach Ramsay is already looking forward to the weekend action.

“There is going to be some good baseball,” Ramsay said. “Everyone is fighting for the opportunity to go into postseason play. It’s going to be fun.”

Matt Spencer

Staff Writer

Freshmen pitchers prove their talent on the diamond

Losing senior leadership in any sport can be a challenge. For the Whitworth baseball team, the graduation of last year’s seniors did not just mean losing a few mentors. It meant losing its entire starting rotation and some key pieces of its bullpen. However, a trio of freshmen in Ryan Kingma, Hugh Smith and Tim Bever have come in and filled the massive holes left after last year’s graduation.

Pitching coach CJ Perry describes the team’s recruiting focus in attempting to replace the starting rotation filled with seniors who had accumulated multiple First and Second Team All-NWC accolades in addition to a handful of Honorable Mentions.

“We were just looking for guys that could compete and we would take two guys to match one guy’s production,” Perry said.

The coaches sought to find people who could compete and collectively match the production.

Going into the year, the Whitworth coaching staff was pretty happy with where they stood as far as pitching recruits. But good recruiting does not always equal success.

For freshmen pitchers it is difficult to tell how they will perform. Sometimes recruits never pan out or for others it takes a few years, Perry said.

Fortunately, Whitworth’s young pitching additions seem to have college pitching figured out pretty well so far. Smith and Kingma, have filled slots in the starting rotation while Bever has seen significant time out of the bullpen.

But none of these pitchers necessarily fit the mold of power and dominance that came before them. Instead, they are playing to their personal strengths.

Bever defines his pitching style as that of a junk baller.

“I throw a lot of curveballs and changes to keep opposing hitters off balanced,” Bever said.

The Redondo Beach, California native has been a major help as a long reliever, allowing the Pirates to keep their bullpen fresh all year. Despite only making one start and four other appearances, Bever has logged an impressive 24.33 innings with an impressive 2.22 earned run average.

Kingma on the other hand embraces the role of a crafty lefty. The freshman from Bellevue, Washington knows he is not going to overpower opposing hitters. Instead, he focuses in on hitting the edges of the strike zone. In his first season, Kingma has already accumulated six wins, tying him for second in the NWC in that category.

One of the biggest surprises for the Pirates has been 6’7” freshman Hugh Smith. Initially working out of the bullpen, Smith quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with and moved into the starting rotation.

“He is so long and the arm is so loose that the fastball jumps,” Perry said describing Smith’s style.

His height and velocity combine to really shorten the distance between the pitcher’s mound and the plate. So much so that Smith has an impressive WHIP (walks, hit by pitches, and hits per inning) of 1.01 and ranks second in the Northwest Conference in earned run average at 1.99.

Collectively, all of Whitworth baseball’s freshman class pitchers have posted a 13-3 record. It will be interesting to watch how these freshmen respond to the pressure of crunch time as the conference tournament and postseason play are approaching rapidly.

Matt Spencer

Staff Writer

Baseball wins against Lutes

Whitworth’s baseball team has continued its trend of putting runs on the board, posting another 15 runs in a three-game series against the Pacific Lutheran Lutes last weekend. The Pirates (14-4) won the last two games of the series 3-1 and 7-3 after losing the first game of series, 6-5. For Whitworth, run production has been a major part of their strong start. Whitworth leads the Northwest Conference with 144 runs produced over their first 18 games. That success has been achieved in part by their ability to hit with power, as the Pirates lead the conference with a .467 batting percentage.

Sophomore JT Phelan was a big part of this weekend’s success. Phelan went three for four on Sunday with an insurance RBI in the seventh inning.

“We have a pretty potent offensive lineup,” Phelan said. “We can swing it from top to bottom which is huge. And we are starting to hit our stride.”

But Phelan was not the only hot bat over the weekend. Junior transfer Jordan McGowan, formerly playing for Spokane Falls, had a big game Sunday as well.

McGowan used a simple approach at the plate to extend the Whitworth lead in the seventh. This mentality allowed the junior to swing freely as he went three for four day at the plate including a double and a pair of RBIs.

On Saturday, junior Garrett Hughes helped produce offensively in a variety of ways. Over the first two games of the series, Hughes went five for seven with a double, stolen base, two RBIs and two runs scored. The production was a culmination of a strong team effort.

“This week we really focused on team at-bats and trying to make things happen,” Hughes said. “With runners in scoring position, having a good at-bat for the team and not yourself to get things done.”

Whitworth was able to have a success throughout the weekend at the plate. And head coach Dan Ramsay says that the offense is given its life by the way their pitchers have worked all season.

“When they hold teams at bay for long enough, it allows our hitters to get comfortable and settle in,” Ramsay said.

Pitchers had a strong showing throughout the weekend as well. Sophomore TJ Orchard earned his second victory going eight innings allowing only one run. On Sunday, freshmen Ryan Kingma threw seven plus innings only allowing three runs as the Pirates were able to extend their lead late in the game.

Overall, it was a big weekend for the Pirates who were able to bounce back from a three loss weekend. Their two victories put them back at the top of the conference standings. And more importantly, the wins came against the defending regular season champion Lutes.

“Taking a series from PLU is big,” Ramsay said. “Knowing that we have a series win under our belt against them is extremely important.”

Whitworth seeks to continue this momentum when they head over this Saturday to Puget Sound in Tacoma for another three game series.

Matt Spencer

Staff Writer

 

Baseball adds to winning streak

The Whitworth baseball team was on fire last weekend, sweeping the Whitman Missionaries in a three-game series. After winning Saturday’s games 10-4 and  18-1, the Pirates closed the weekend out with a 10-5 victory on Sunday. For the undefeated 11-win Whitworth baseball team the formula for success was the same; making the most of every opportunity. Every mistake made by the Missionaries was punished throughout the weekend. It started with a home run by junior Garrett Hughes in the 6-4 ballgame in the bottom of the seventh-inning of the first game.

“I was just trying to react to something. [The pitcher] got the ball elevated and I put a good swing on it,” Hughes said.

But for coach Dan Ramsay the mistake was no accident.

“We are really aggressive on the basepaths and it gets pitchers thinking about our baserunners so much that they fail to realize they have to face our hitters. They elevate pitches and we have done a good job punishing them in those situations,” Ramsay said.

The Pirates delivered five home runs over the three-game span; two of which were hit by senior Jeremy Druffel. In game three, Druffel finished with three hits including two home runs and four runs batted in.

In game two, Whitworth’s patience at the plate lead to victory. Whitman pitchers combined for 11 walks and hit six Pirate hitters, most of which came around to score. Whenever Missionary pitchers would walk or hit someone, the next batter was right there to knock them in with a run batted in.

Defensively, sophomore pitcher TJ Orchard was aggressive and efficient. Orchard pitched six scoreless innings as Whitworth built a 5-0 early lead. In four of his six innings Orchard was able to throw less than 12 pitches.

“Attack and throw strikes from the start,” was the pitching game plan, Orchard said.

That mentality spilled over to fellow pitcher, junior AJ Milyard. Milyard entered the sixth inning of game three in a tie at 5-5. The pitcher went on to throw five strong innings surrendering only one hit to Whitman.

Defensively and offensively, the baseball team has been extremely effective this season. Every game a handful of Pirates are stepping up to contribute when it is most needed. These contributions have roots in the competitive persona of the team.

“They are competitive. The kids don’t like to lose,” coach Ramsay said. “We see it in practice too. Anytime we go down a run or two, our offense finds a way to punch back. That’s been the characteristic of this team that is starting to define ourselves as one that does not like to lose.”

Next weekend’s games against George Fox begin on Saturday with a doubleheader at 11 a.m. and then again at 2 p.m. before the final game on Sunday at noon.

Matthew Spencer

Staff Writer

Brett Moser inspires teammates to be #MoserStrong

Sports have always been an important part of sophomore Brett Moser’s life. Playing sports, watching sports, learning and diving into a sport was and still is something that brings Moser happiness.

“Sports mean everything to me; sports are my life,” Moser said. “If I’m not playing, I’m watching. If I’m not watching, I’m on the ESPN app just looking stu up and trying to learn more.”

Playing both football and baseball at Moses Lake High School, Moser racked up quite a few awards and recognitions. His junior year of football, he was awarded first-team wide receiver and first-team in baseball as a shortstop. His senior year he was awarded first-team and all-state in football and baseball and was also a team captain in both.

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“I’ve been playing baseball since I can remember,” Moser said. “With football I’ve been playing since...third grade.”

Moser was excited to come to Whitworth and get the opportunity to play both the sports he devoted a large part of his life to in high school. However, toward the end of his freshman year of college, on his dad’s birthday, Moser headed to the doctor after discovering a lump on his stomach. After getting it checked and tested, the doctor concluded that it was a tumor touching a renal artery. Moser was then sent to Seattle for further testing in search of a further diagnosis.

“I had really good doctors who were able to gure out what it was very quickly,” Moser said. “They found out it was testicular [cancer].”

With this diagnosis, Moser started a nine-week journey with chemotherapy. Throughout those nine weeks, chemo was distributed in three sessions—each a full week long lasting four hours— each day. For the remaining two weeks, the chemo would be every Monday for three hours. Moser went into surgery a couple of weeks after this routine. The purpose of the 10 hour surgery was to remove the cancer and a kidney.

Head football coach Rod Sandberg spoke highly of Moser and the things that Moser has personally taught him.

“Brett is so positive and strong-willed,” Sandberg said. “He also has an incredible amount of confidence. It is hard for us to imagine what he has gone through at such a young age, but his confidence is inspiring to all of us and to take his perspective is important to our entire team.”

Since the surgery, Moser has been on a low fat diet and regaining his strength now that he is cancer free.

“It’s gone and there is a 98 percent chance that it won’t come back,” Moser said. “Going from being able to do stuff everyday to barely being able to walk and getting fatigued so easily has probably been my biggest struggle in this.”

Moser spoke highly about his two teams which were his main support systems. During his freshman year at Whitworth, Moser played football and baseball, contributing to both teams in important ways.

“It’s so awesome to have so many people supporting me; it really helps,” Moser said. “It’s really cool because some of my closest friends are on the football team so I get a lot of support from them and even the coaches. During one of my chemo sessions, Sandberg and his family came down and hung out with me so that was really appreciated.”

The football team has made Moser an important part of their mindset this season by starting the hashtag #MoserStrong and printing it on the back of their team shirts. The baseball team has also been keeping Moser in their thoughts by wearing bracelets during their preseason.

“‘Moser Strong’ is a vivid reminder to take some perspective in our everyday lives,” Sandberg said. “It is a reminder that life is bigger than school and football, that there are many things more important than all those things. He is so strong and such an inspiration to us. He is inspiring us everyday and we keep ‘Moser Strong’ as a reminder to us of his inspiration.”

Moser plans to return to play both football and baseball next year. His teammates are excited to get him back, but also are thankful for the lessons Moser has taught them through this journey.

“He has had such a great spirit throughout all of this,” sophomore JT Phelan said. Phelan plays both football and baseball with Moser and describes him as “hilarious, caring, and a punk.”

Moser has not only been an inspiration to his friends and relatives, but has inspired an entire team and community to be “Moser Strong.”

 

McKinley Powers

Staff Writer

Contact McKinley Powers at

mpowers18@my.whitworth.edu