SPOKANE, Wash. – The Pirates are back in the hunt. After an 0-5 start to conference play, the Whitworth baseball team has rebounded to a 9-9 record and the Bucs are currently tied with Whitman for fourth place in the Northwest Conference standings. Whitworth will need all of that momentum during a visit to Linfield College this weekend. The teams are scheduled to play doubleheaders on both Saturday and Sunday, each starting at noon.
Watch the Whitworth baseball schedule for live links to follow the games.
The Pirates: Whitworth swept Lewis & Clark in a four game series at Merkel Field last weekend. The Pirates are now 18-10 overall and 9-9 (4th place in the NWC) in the NWC. The team is batting .273 and has a 4.14 ERA.
Whitworth won the opener 5-1 as Hugh Smith (3-3) threw six solid innings for the win and Darren Crosby tossed three shutout innings for the save. Smith allowed five hits and struck out five batters while Crosby allowed only two hits for his third save of the year. Jacob Yamane homered and Garrett Hughes went 3-4 with two runs scored to spark of the offense.
Matthew Nelson drove in three runs and Jacob Silva added two RBIs, while Ryan Bird hit a solo home run as the Pirates claimed Saturday's second game 7-4. Matthew Pulliam earned his first pitching victory of the season with 3.1 shutout innings in relief of starter Ryan Kingma. Kelly Fitzpatrick picked up his fourth save of the season with 1.2 innings of hitless relief.
Ryan Young (4-2) dominated Whitworth's 9-2 victory in game three by allowing only four hits and one run over eight innings. He struck out eight batters and walked only one and now leads the team in wins. Yamane went 3-4 with a double and his second home run of the season to spark the offense. JT Phelan finished 3-5 with a pair of RBIs.
Whitworth claimed the series finale 10-5 in a game that does not count toward the NWC standings but does toward both teams' overall record. Freshman catcher Cody Simmons finished 3-4 at the plate and drove in three runs in the best outing of his career. Nicholas Nerud added a pair of RBIs while Phelan scored four times. Brady Simmelink improved to 3-0 on the mound after allowing three runs on seven hits in five innings.
The Opponents: Linfield College is 17-9 overall and 12-5 in the NWC coming off of a three-game sweep last weekend at Pacific (Ore.). The Wildcats are a well-balanced club. They are batting .302 and lead the league in home runs (27) and in team ERA (3.59). Senior OF Scott Hilpert is in line to win the NWC's batting triple crown, leading the league in batting average (.402), home runs (11) and RBIs (36). Sophomore pitcher Cason Cunningham is 3-1 this season. He leads the NWC in strikeouts (68) and ranks second in ERA (1.82). This is the second straight season Whitworth has traveled to Linfield. Last year the Pirates won the opener but lost the next two games to the Wildcats.
NWC Tournament Hunt: On March 5th the Pirates were 0-5 in the NWC and at the bottom of the conference standings. Since then Whitworth has battled back to put itself in position to qualify for the NWC tournament. Now 9-9 in the NWC, Whitworth is tied with Whitman for fourth place in the standings, one game ahead of George Fox (8-10). The top four teams in the league standings at the end of the regular season qualify for the Northwest Conference tournament, which is hosted by the regular season champion.
Fleet Feet: With 57 stolen bases Whitworth currently leads the NWC and ranks 12th in all of NCAA Division III. Daniel Casanova is the NWC leader this season with 20 stolen bags, while teammate Garret Hughes ranks second with 14.
Pirate Hammer: Matthew Nelson is having an All-Conference kind of year at the plate. With a .312 batting average he currently ranks second in the NWC in both home runs (8) and in RBIs (35).
The Coach: Dan Ramsay has led the Bucs to the NCAA Division III tournament three times (2012, 2015, 2016) and was named Northwest Conference Coach of the Year in 2012 and 2016 and West Region Coach of the Year by D3baseball.com and the ABCA in 2012. Ramsay, now in his ninth season coaching Whitworth, earned his 150th career victory during the 2016 season. He is 159-164 overall.
In his eight years at Whitworth Ramsay has coached a First Team All-American and two Third Team All-Americans, 21 All-Northwest Conference selections, ten ABCA All-West Region selections, one Academic All-American and four Academic All-District selections, one conference batting champion, one West Region Gold Glove Award winner, one Rawlings Gold Glove National Award winner, and has had three players sign professional contracts.