By Mak Karge, Asst. SID
SPOKANE, Wash. - The Whitworth Pirates baseball team will conclude the 2019 season this weekend with three non-conference games against Northwest Conference member schools. Whitworth will play at Puget Sound on Saturday morning. The Bucs will play at Pacific Lutheran on Sunday then finish against Whitman later on Sunday in a game at PLU.
Whitworth (24-14), winners of the 2019 regular season NWC championship, took second place in the Northwest Conference tournament in Spokane this past weekend.
The Pirates opened the tournament with a 5-4, comeback-victory over Pacific Lutheran. Whitworth rallied from a 4-0 deficit against the player who was just named the NWC's Pitcher of the Year. Nicholas Nerud did a little bit of everything, going 2-3 with a pair of stolen bases, two RBIs, and a run.
Whitworth dropped the second game of the tournament 5-3 to Whitman. Most of the scoring came in the final three innings after a pitchers dual through the first six frames that included a strong start by Austin Rice. Cody Simmons hit a two run homer in the bottom of the ninth, but the rally came up short.
Whitworth rebounded with a 6-3 win in the tournament's third game, which started on Saturday evening but concluded on Sunday morning because of darkness. Connor Grytdal entered game in the fifth inning and threw the rest of the way, spanning both days, for his third save of the season. Tyler Bailey went 3-4 with two RBIs and a run.
Needing to win twice against Whitman on Sunday, the Pirates got the first piece accomplished with a 9-6 victory. Matthew Young, who was the game-one starter, picked up the win in relief with six innings of work. Nerud was 4-4 with two RBIs and two runs. Casey Isa was also 4-4, scoring twice. Taylor Poffenroth hit a two run homer in the bottom of the fourth.
In the tournament's ultimate game, Whitworth built an early 6-2 lead, but Whitman chipped away and scored a final run in the eighth inning for an 8-7 victory. Simmons and Isa both went 2-4 with two runs. With the victory, Whitman claims the NWC's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs.
All-NWC Honors: Led by head coach CJ Perry getting honored as the 2019 Northwest Conference Coach of the Year, Whitworth was well-represented on the 2019 All-NWC baseball team. Tyler Bailey, Nicholas Nerud, Taylor Poffenroth and Matthew Young all garnered first team recognition. Cody Simmons, Austin Rice and Brett Thomas made the second team. Mathew Pulliam received honorable mention consideration.
This Weekend: Whitworth went 3-0 against Puget Sound during a home series in early April. The Pirates are 3-1 against Pacific Lutheran this season after winning two of three in Tacoma on March 29-30 and claiming the opener of the NWC tournament. Whitman is the one NWC team the Bucs struggled with this season on the way to the conference title. The Blues won four of the teams' six games, two of three in the regular season series and two of three at the NWC tournament.
The Coach: CJ Perry earned NWC Coach of the Year in only his second season as head coach of the Pirates. He previously served 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 Detroit 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.