By Mak Karge, Asst. SID
SPOKANE, Wash. – Jaxsen Sweum's walk-off single gave Whitworth a 2-1 victory over visiting Linfield in the opener of a Northwest Conference baseball doubleheader on Saturday at Merkel Field, but Wildcats rallied to win the nightcap 9-7 to avoid a three-game sweep.
The Northwest Conference champion Pirates (22-12 overall, 19-5 NWC) will host the conference tournament next weekend to determine the NWC's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs.
The Pirates had a ceremony honoring the 12 graduating seniors prior to Saturday's first pitch.
Game 1: Whitworth 2, Linfield 1
Sweum's rocket down the left field line with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth drove in Nicholas Nerud with the winning run. Nerud led off the inning with a double, putting pressure on the Linfield defense.
Matthew Young (8-3) pitched a complete game, scattering seven hits giving up one earned run, He struck out eight Wildcats and did not walk a batter.
Nerud scored Whitworth's first run of the game in the third inning, coming home on Ben Wintringer's two-out single up the middle. Nerud finished 3-4 at the plate.
A Cameron Fox RBI single in the second inning gave Linfield the early lead.
Wilson Miles (0-2) pitched the entire 8.2 innings for the Wildcats, allowing two earned runs and eight hits, with three strikeouts.
Game 2: Linfield 9, Whitworth 7
The Wildcats rallied from a 6-0 deficit to pull out the series finale.
The Pirates scored six runs in the bottom of the third. With the bases loaded, starting Linfield pitcher, Cason Cunningham walked Ian Sugrue allowing Taylor Poffenroth to score. Casey Isa followed with a single to right center, driving in Mathew Pulliam and Spencer Locati. Nerud's single knocked in Sugrue. Tyler Bailey's single to right scored Nerud and Isa with the final two runs.
Leading 6-0 with the conference title clinched three games earlier, Whitworth began to sub in players in the fifth and sixth innings and the Wildcats took advantage. Trailing 7-3, Linfield scored six runs in the eighth inning. Fox hit a two-run homer over the right fence to give the 'Cats a 9-7 lead. Levi Horner-Villa followed with a pinch-hit home run for the final tally.
Ryan Kingma went six innings on the mound for Whitworth and allowed three runs on seven hits. Darren Crosby followed and allowed four runs, while Connor Grytdal (2-3) took the loss after giving up both home runs. Taylor Roelofs threw a scoreless ninth.
Cason Cunningham allowed six runs in 2.2 innings as the Linfield starter with eight walks. Callan McRae (1-0) picked up the win for the Wildcats, pitching 2.1 innings and not allowing a single hit. Liam Herlihy received his second save of the season, closing out the last two outs of the game.