PARKLAND, Wash. - Spencer Ansett followed Dan Scheibe's no-hit performance on Friday with seven strong innings and Joshua Davis hit a two-run home run as Whitworth advanced to the championship of the inaugural Northwest Conference Tournament with a 4-1 win over host Pacific Lutheran at PLU Field on Saturday.
The third-seeded Pirates (27-13) reach Sunday's championship with wins over two nationally-ranked teams in 14th-ranked Linfield and 18th-ranked Pacific Lutheran. As the only undefeated team remaining in the double-elimination tournament, Whitworth needs one win to be crowned tournament champions and clinch an automatic bid to the NCAA West Regional. The Pirates will face either top-seeded Pacific Lutheran (27-10) or second-seeded Linfield (28-11) in the championship.
The Lutes and Wildcats face off Saturday afternoon in a loser-out contest, with the winner advancing to the championship. The winner will need to top Whitworth twice on Sunday to claim the tournament title.
Whitworth scored once in the fourth inning and added two more runs in the fifth inning to open a lead. JT Phelan hit a leadoff double to the left-center field gap in the fourth inning and advanced to third base on a single by Jeremy Druffel. Joel Condreay then delivered a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Phelan. The Lutes limited further damage as Thomas Wakem grounded into a double play.
Davis gave the Pirates a three-run lead in the fifth inning when he connected for his 10th home run of the season, a two-run shot to the scoreboard in right-center field that scored Skyler Lookabill. Lookabill had reached on a fielder's choice after Casey Isa was hit by a pitch.
Back-to-back singles for the Lutes began the bottom of the sixth inning. Ansett induced a third-to-first double play but Pacific Lutheran's Collin Nilson delivered a two-out RBI single to left-center field before a strikeout ended the inning.
The Pirates responded to extend the lead back to three runs in the next frame. Nick Motsinger placed a one-out double just inside the left-field line and later scored on a two-out base hit to right field from Lookabill.
Ansett (5-1) recorded three strikeouts and two walks on the mound. Pacific Lutheran's Drew Oord hit a one-out single in the third inning with a base hit, breaking a stretch of 12 hitless innings thrown by the Whitworth pitching staff. But Ansett held the Lutes to only four additional hits in the remainder of his outing.
Whitworth closer Carson Blumenthal replaced Ansett in the eighth inning and pitched two scoreless innings of relief, earning his eighth save of the season.
The pitchers were backed by a stellar defensive performance, including notable plays by Motsinger at third base and Lookabill in left field during the fourth inning. Motsinger charged a drag bunt attempt and made an impressive on-the-run throw to take away a base hit. Two batters later with a runner on first base, Lookabill made a full-extension diving catch near the warning track deep in left-center field that prevented an extra-base hit and potential run-scoring play.
Druffel, the center fielder, added a defensive gem with a sliding catch in the left-center field gap to prevent a base hit with a runner on base in the seventh inning and Motsinger flashed the leather with a diving stop on a grounder in the ninth inning to help prevent a PLU rally.
No Pirate had more than one hit, but seven batters recorded a hit in the game.
Pacific Lutheran starter Kyle Rossman (5-3) went eight innings, allowing four earned runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and two walks. Tanner Williams finished 2 for 4 with a run scored to lead the Lutes.
Sunday's championship game will begin at 1 p.m. If necessary, a second game will be played at 4 p.m.