by Mak Karge, Asst. SID
PORTLAND, Ore. - Whitworth University rolled to the 2019 Northwest Conference baseball title with a pair of dominating wins at Lewis & Clark College on Sunday. Whitworth won 18-3 in the first game and 13-0 in the nightcap to create a four-game lead in the league standings with only three NWC games left on the schedule.
The Pirates (20-11 overall, 17-4 NWC) will close out the conference schedule by hosting Linfield (6-26, 3-18) next Friday and Saturday at Merkel Field. Whitworth has also earned the right to host the 2019 NWC Tournament April 26-28, which will determine the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs.
Game 1 – Whitworth 18, Lewis & Clark 3
A makeup of Saturday's second game which was rained out, the Pirates broke away late, highlighted by a Luke Bruno grand slam in the eighth inning. Bruno's grand slam came on just his sixth career at-bat as a Pirate. Nicholas Nerud had three hits and a walk in five plate appearances, while Taylor Poffenroth drove in four runs.
Whitworth jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, including an RBI double by Tyler Bailey. The Pirates added a run in the second inning on Nerud's RBI single.
The Bucs began to pull away in the fifth and sixth. Poffenroth had a two-run double in the fifth and He added a two-run single in the sixth to cap a three-run rally that gave Whitworth a 9-0 lead. Joe Howell added an RBI single in the seventh.
L&C finally broke through against Whitworth starting pitcher Matthew Young with a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh.
But the floodgates opened in the top of the eighth as the Pirates scored eight more runs, including the Bruno grand slam. Bruno would add one more RBI later in the inning.
Dylan Moore had a solo home run for the Pioneers in the bottom of the eighth, his only appearance at the plate.
Dominic Monozon (2-6) started for the Pioneers and went four innings, allowing seven hits and five earned runs. Five players followed in relief for L&C.
Game 2 – Whitworth 13, Lewis & Clark 0
Ryan Kingma threw seven shutout innings and the Pirates took any drama out of clinching the title with another dominating win.
Whitworth put up seven runs in the fifth inning, five of which were unearned due to fielding errors. Poffenroth drove in two more runs with a single and Jaxsen Sweum followed with a two-run double.
Tyler Bailey hit a grand slam to left field in the top of the eighth, mirroring Whitworth's performance in the first game and capping a five-run rally.
Kingma (6-3) dominated L&C from the start. He retired the first 13 batters he faced before allowing his only hit in the fifth inning. He struck out five Pioneers. Connor Grydtal and Brett Thomas each pitched a scoreless inning, assisting Kingma in the two-hit shutout.
Poffenroth finished 3-5 with three RBIs.
Andrew Yarak (2-5) allowed six hits and six runs, although only one earned run, in 4.2 innings for L&C. Dylan Moore, who hit a home run in the first game, pitched the last inning, allowing no hits and striking out one of the three batters.