SPOKANE, Wash. - T.J. Orchard went seven innings on the mound and the Pirates broke an early tie with a four-run fourth inning before holding off visiting Puget Sound for a 6-5 win on Senior Day Sunday at Merkel Field.
With the non-conference victory on Sunday to win the series over Puget Sound (16-24), the Pirates (29-11) played their last game currently on the schedule for 2016. Prior to the start of the game, Whitworth honored seniors Michael Renner, Skyler Lookabill and Jeremy Druffel with a brief on-field ceremony.
Whitworth, currently two wins shy of tying the school record for wins in a season, is hoping its season will continue later in May via an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The tournament field will be announced on Monday, May 16.
Sunday's finale played out similar to Saturday's second game, as Whitworth struck early and built a lead before holding off a Puget Sound rally. After Garrett Hughes reached via an error to begin the bottom of the first, Druffel sent his team-leading ninth home run of the season to straightaway center field as Whitworth grabbed a quick 2-0 advantage.
Orchard retired the first seven batters he faced before stranding Ryan Moyes at third base following Moyes' one-out triple in the third inning for Puget Sound's first baserunner of the game. But the Loggers brought the score even at 2-2 in the fourth inning after a leadoff single by Chris Zerio was followed by a two-run home run to right field from Nick Funyak, his fourth of the season.
Following a pair of four-run innings in the second game of the series, Whitworth once again put together a four-run inning during the fourth frame of Sunday's finale. JT Phelan led off with a double and scored with an RBI groundout by Matthew Nelson. After a double by Joel Condreay and a walk to Jacob Yamane, Zach Thibault belted a three-run home run, his fourth of the season, to right-center field for the 6-2 lead.
Puget Sound produced a late rally for the second consecutive game, scoring three times in the eighth inning to come within 6-5. Alex Sierra homered to center field to begin the inning, his second consecutive game with a home run. Sierra's blast was followed by a pair of singles before Nickolas Alarcio doubled home both runners to bring the Loggers within a run.
With Alarcio threatening as the tying run at second base and no outs in the eighth, reliever Tim Bever -- who entered the game following Sierra's home run -- was replaced by Kelly Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick induced a rare 3-5 double play against the first batter he faced to eliminate the potential tying run from the bases. Nathan Backes grounded out to Nelson at first base, who quickly touched the base and fired over to Yamane at third base to nab Alarcio attempting to advance. A second groundout ended the inning.
The Loggers put the tying run on base with two outs in the top of the ninth when Cal Muramaru was hit by pitch following consecutive strikeouts to start the inning, but Sierra grounded out to first base to end the game.
Orchard (8-1) struck out six and walked one over seven innings, allowing three earned runs on nine hits. Fitzpatrick picked up his fifth save of the year, tossing two scoreless innings with two strikeouts. The only batter he allowed to reach base was Muramaru in the ninth.
David Follett (3-1) took the loss for Puget Sound, allowing six runs (five earned) and four hits over 3 ⅓ innings pitched.
Puget Sound totaled 12 hits in the game, compared with seven for Whitworth. Phelan finished 2-for-3 with a run scored and a walk to lead the Pirates. The Loggers were led by Zerio, who finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored.