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

Softball wins final away games

Whitworth’s softball team won the last three games of its series at Puget Sound in Tacoma after losing the first game 11-7. The Pirates (22-9 overall) continue to have success in Northwest Conference play as they currently hold a three game lead for first place. The weekend started out with a 11-7 loss in which Whitworth allowed  the highest amount of runs against of the season. Puget Sound put up seven runs through two innings, capitalizing on a couple defensive errors. The Loggers also hit two home runs early to the game one win.

Whitworth bounced back and went on to claim game two, 6-0, followed by doubleheader victories on Sunday with 2-0 and 8-1 wins. The difference between the first game and those that followed were defense and pitching.

Junior Makayla Lefever (13-3) collected victories in games 2 and 3 pitching 14 straight innings without a run surrendering a run and allowing only five total hits and two walks.

This strong performance came after those seven runs in game 1.

“I knew my team had my back. I was not thinking too much about [the first game] because I know we could come back from it,” Lefever said.

The Whitworth pitching staff had help throughout the weekend. Softball coach Cristal Brown was happy with the way the team settled down after the first defeat. Brown also credited the players for making adjustments between games 1 and 2.

“They talked amongst themselves and figured it out as a team,” Brown said.

Michelle Silva played a key role in turning things around for Whitworth. The sophomore third baseman had a home run and a double in game two and drove in the only two runs on a fourth inning double during game three.

“It meant a lot. Losing the first game was hard, and it was really cool to see us come together and pick each other up. We came out and played hard,” Silva said.

In the last game, junior Shannon Wessel helped produce run support for Whitworth. Wessel went two for four on the day with a three-run home run in the fifth inning to help break the game open.

For Wessel and her teammates, the weekend signified the team’s ability to work together after a tough loss.

“I think today was about all of us playing for each other. We have put a lot of hard work into the season and it’s getting down to crunch time,” Wessel said.

Next weekend, Whitworth (14-6 NWC) will take on Pacific Lutheran (11-9 NWC) here in Spokane. The dual doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday will each start at noon.

Matt Spencer

Staff Writer

Softball 4/2/16 recap

Whitworth dropped the first game to Puget Sound, 11-7. The Pirates fell behind quickly, 7-0, after two short innings of play behind two key Logger homeruns and a couple of errors. While Whitworth was able to rally back to within two runs, they did not complete the comeback. In the afternoon game, the Pirates went 6-0 behind the strong pitching of junior Makayla Lefever. Lefever only allowed three baserunners in the game en route to her 12th victory. Sophomore Michelle Silva had a big day at the plate with both a home run and a double in game two. Whitworth (20-9) plays a doubleheader tomorrow to close out the series at Puget Sound. The first game starts at 12 p.m.

Matt Spencer

Staff Writer

 

Day 3 Swimming Championships Recap

Whitworth’s swim team is continuing to have a strong showing at the NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving National Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina. Swimmers have been posting not only season best times but also personal and school records. Junior Jackie Beal set a school record in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 56.77 that beat out the previous school record she had set. Beal’s time did not qualify her for the event finals but was 21st in the morning heats.

Also impressive was sophomore Jason Smith. On Friday Smith was one-hundredth of a second away from tying the school record in the men’s 100-yard backstroke finishing the consolation final in 50.07 seconds. Smith finished 15th in the event.

Lastly, the Whitworth men’s 800-yard freestyle relay team of senior Wes Walton, senior Trevor Case, sophomore Patrick Wilber and Smith set a season-best time of 6:50.24 which was good enough to finish 20th.

After Friday’s events, Whitworth was in 29th place in the team standings.

 

Matthew 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

 

Whitworth softball battled Bruins over the weekend

Whitworth’s softball team faced off against the George Fox Bruins that knocked them out of the Northwest Conference Tournament last year. The Pirates won two games of the four-game series this weekend and move to 9-3 on the year with a 6-2 conference record. At Saturday’s games it was a pitcher’s duel as the teams combined for five runs in two game. In the first game, an unearned run in the seventh led to the only run in the 1-0 Whitworth loss. Whitworth’s junior pitcher Madi Perez threw a gem allowing only four hits in seven innings of work. But the offense was not able to give Perez run support, as the Pirate stranded seven runners in the game.

Whitworth was able to recover and take the second game of the series 3-1. Junior pitcher Makayla Lefever earned the win by throwing seven strong innings and allowing one earned run on a home run by George Fox’s Courtney Howard.

For the Pirate’s offense in game two, it was sophomore Chelsey Hayes and junior Tessa Matthews who delivered with RBIs in the third and fifth innings, respectively. Throughout Saturday, senior Alyssa Hall provided a spark for the lineup gathering three hits on six at-bats with two bases stolen.

George Fox and Whitworth’s offenses had a busy Sunday. Game three brought 15 baserunners to the plate on 19 combine hits as George Fox came away with the 8-7  win. It was a big day for the Pirate’s Matthews who had a double and a two-run home run in the game.

The Bruins victory was led by seniors Courtney Howard and Kat Hylton who combined for a triple, a home run, four RBIs and five hits.

Game four swung the pendulum back towards the Pirates as Lefever (6-0) picked up her second  complete game shutout of the weekend. With some insurance runs off the bat of sophomore Michelle Silva with a two-run home run, the Pirates were able to even the weekend series at two wins and two losses.

Next week, Whitworth’s softball team (9-3) goes on the road to Willamette University in Salem, Oregon for a four-game series. After the weeknd, the Pirates are tied for second place behind the Pacific Boxers.

 

Matthew 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

Pirates head towards semifinals in fourth

The Whitworth women’s basketball team split the last weekend of regular season Northwest Conference play. After losing 59-82 Friday night at Puget Sound, the Pirates bounced back to upend Pacific Lutheran, 83-63. The team was unable to get a victory in their first matchup of the weekend, falling to the Puget Sound Loggers. An early deficit proved difficult to overcome as the Loggers went on an 18-0 run midway through the first quarter.

Senior Faith Emerson did her best to try and keep Whitworth in the game, posting a team-high 22 points. But Whitworth offensively combined to shoot 35 percent in the game. The Pirates’ biggest struggle, however, came on the other end of the floor.

“We did not get it done on defense,” Emerson said. “We know better. It was really the help-side, we failed to get our rotations correct which got them a lot of easy looks. It went downhill from our perspective because of our help defense.”

Puget Sound shot with high efficiency in the game, shooting 49.2 percent from the field. Those good shot opportunities allowed the Loggers to control the ball throughout the game and maintain a comfortable lead as the Pirates trailed by 24 at the half. That deficit remained steady throughout most of the game as Puget Sound went on to win 82-59.

When asked about improvements needed for next game Emerson focused on pace of play.

“We need to, as a team, dictate and control the tempo of the game. When we are scoring we are doing that. It all comes back to our failings on defense,” she said.

A big key to the game plan heading into Pacific Lutheran was to “focus in on little things like relaxing, playing together, and having a good team effort,” coach Helen Higgs said.

The Pirates delivered a dominating defensive performance in their 20-point victory.

Whitworth was all over the court defensively pressuring the Lutes into 23 turnovers on the game.

Most importantly, the Pirates were able to correct the holes in the help-side defense from Friday nights game.

“On defense it was our help-side defense. That was where we struggled last night and that was our focus for us tonight. I think that’s where we had a lot of success,” senior KC McConnell said.

On the other end, the offense was firing on all cylinders as Whitworth shot 45.3 percent in the game. McConnell, who finished with 17 points, felt that the defensive intensity fueled the offensive flow.

McConnell explained the importance of transitions in the game.

“When we could get out and run we caught their defense off-guard because they did not have a chance to get set,” she said.

The first halves in each game played a major role in determining the outcome. A 15-point halftime lead gave the Pirates some breathing room heading into the second half. As a result the Pirates were able to finish the regular season with a victory, moving the Pirates’ overall record to 15-10.

After a win and a loss during the weekend, the Pirates remain in fourth in the Northwest Conference. This week Whitworth prepares for a trip to George Fox on Thursday for a 7 p.m. conference semifinal game.

 

Matthew Spencer

Staff Writer