by Mak Karge, Asst. SID
SPOKANE, Wash. - The Whitworth University baseball team will be back home this weekend against the Puget Sound Loggers hoping to stay on top of the Northwest Conference. The Pirates took two of three at Pacific Lutheran last weekend, allowing the Pirates to maintain their lead by one game for first place. Whitworth and UPS will play a doubleheader on Saturday and a single game on Sunday at Merkel Field. Both days will start at noon.
Watch the Pirates' baseball schedule for live links to this weekend's games.
The Pirates: Whitworth is 14-11 overall and 11-4 in the NWC after winning last weekend's series against the Lutes. The Pirates won the first two games, 1-0 and 2-1, thanks to strong pitching performances and a pair of game-winning RBIs by Ben Wintringer. They dropped Sunday's game 5-4.
Lefthander Austin Rice allowed just two hits in seven innings in the opener, giving Whitworth the opportunity to secure a 1-0 victory. Wintringer hit a deep single to center field in the third allowing Nicholas Nerud to score from second base. Connor Grytdal earned the save, allowing just one hit in the final two innings.
Matthew Young pitched a complete game in Saturday's second contest, allowing just one run on four hits. Young struck out nine batters and gave up just two walks, allowing the Pirates to rally from an early 1-0 deficit with a pair of runs in the fifth. Jaxsen Sweum's single drove in Cody Simmons, then Wintringer followed with a sacrifice fly to center to bring in Casey Isa.
The Pirates got behind early in Sunday's series finale and rallied with three runs in the ninth before falling 5-4. Ryan Kingma gave up six hits and three earned runs in 6.2 innings. Nicholas Nerud went 3-5 with an RBI and a run scored.
Whitworth's defense leads all of NCAA Division III with a .979 fielding percentage, including just one error last weekend. Whitworth remains last in the conference in home runs (3) yet is second in batting average (.285). Whitworth pitchers have allowed the fewest hits (197), runs (101), earned runs (91), and own the lowest ERA (3.72) in the Northwest Conference. The Pirates also lead the NWC in batting average against (.241).
Leading the League: Whitworth (11-4) is in first place in the Northwest Conference standings with three weekends to play. The Pirates lead Pacific (10-5) by a full game and are percentage points ahead of George Fox (12-6). PLU (9-6) is in fourth place. Whitworth played all three schools and has a tiebreaker advantage over all of them due to head-to-head results.
The NWC's regular season champion will host the conference tournament on April 26-28. The tournament will determine the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The top four teams in the league standings qualify.
The Opponents: The Puget Sound Loggers are 9-18 overall and 8-7 in the NWC after sweeping Linfield last weekend. Puget Sound is only a game behind PLU for fourth place in the league standings. First baseman Mason Quinlan leads the Loggers with a .385 batting average, while Jack Gries hits .312 with four home runs, 10 doubles and 27 RBIs. Davis Miller (2-1) has pitched 39.1 innings with a 1.83 ERA and just six walks.
Last season the Loggers went 17-23 (10-15 NWC). The Pirates won two of the three meetings against Puget Sound last year.
The Coach: CJ Perry is in his second season as head coach of the Pirates, after serving five seasons as an assistant coach. He had two players taken in the major league draft in 2018, pitcher Hugh Smith in the sixth round by the DePtroit Tigers and shortstop Joel Condreay selected in the 31st round by the Colorado Rockies. As pitching coach in 2016, Perry's staff led all of NCAA Div. III in walks allowed per nine innings (2.07) and posted a team ERA of 3.95.