WALLA WALLA - Whitman College senior Erik Korsmo wrote a storybook ending to his baseball career on Sunday, driving home the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Missionaries to a 10-9 season-ending victory over Whitworth at Borleske Stadium
Whitman fell behind early, trailing the Pirates by six runs headed to the bottom of the fifth inning.
"We were down 8-2 at that point, but you could already feel the momentum starting to move in our direction," Whitman coach Jared Holowaty said.
"After seeing our guys play as poorly as we did on Saturday, it was great to see them battle back today against a good team. This was a great win for Whitman baseball and a testament to just how hard our young men have worked all year long."
Jay Richards, one of just three seniors on a young Whitman team, rapped a one-out double down the left-field line to trigger a three-run Missionary fifth inning that set the stage for more theatrics to come.
Freshman Cam Young singled home Richards, stole second base and scored when Korsmo singled to left. Korsmo, who advanced to second base when his hit was misplayed in left field, then scored when freshman Aaron Cohen singled to center.
Cohen's RBI trimmed Whitman's deficit to 8-5, but the Pirates added a run in the top of the sixth to stretch their lead to 9-5.
After failing to capitalize on two singles in the bottom of the sixth inning, Whitman tallied four runs in the seventh to pull even at 9-9.
A string of three singles by Cohen and two more freshmen, Casey Minnick and Kyle Buckham, plated the first run. A one-out sacrifice fly to center by first-year sophomore Chris Andrews accounted for a second run.
After moving to second base when freshman Jimmy Madden singled through the right side, Buckham got a great jump on a pitch in the dirt. As Buckham broke for third base, catcher Michael Takemura blocked and recovered the ball in time to make a throw to third base.
That throw found its way into left field, however, allowing Buckham to score on the play. Young followed a Richards base on balls with single to left field, driving in the fourth run of the inning and knotting the game at 9-all.
A heads-up defensive play by Madden, Whitman's catcher, helped keep Whitworth from breaking the tie in the top of the seventh. A one-out infield throwing error sent Whitworth's JR Jarrell scooting toward second base.
But Madden, hustling down the first-base line to back up the play, retrieved the errant throw in time to gun down Jarrell at second base. That out proved huge when the next Pirate hitter singled to right field.
"That was just one of the great plays we made defensively today," Holowaty said. "Chris Andrews and Cam Young also made some great stops in the infield."
Whitman threatened again in the bottom of the eighth when singles by Cohen and freshman C.J. Pentland put Missionaries on first and second with one out. But Landon Scott, Whitworth's fifth pitcher of the day, took the mound and notched two quick outs on an infield pop fly and strike-out.
After Whitman pitcher Justin Weeks retired the Pirates in order in the top of the ninth, there was no denying the Missionaries in the bottom of the frame, not "The way the inning played out was unbelievable," Holowaty said. "You could see it happening before it happened with some of guys doing what they do best."
Madden, leading off, was hit by a pitch for the 16th time this season, which is tops in the NWC this spring and breaks a single-season Whitman school record.
Richards, next up, moved Madden into scoring position at second base with a sacrifice bunt -- his team-leading 15th such bunt over the past two seasons.
After Young was walked, setting up a possible inning-ending double play, Korsmo came through in the clutch, chopping a ball through the hole at shortstop to score Madden with the winning run.
"Erik is a two-year team captain who's been a huge part of this baseball program for four years," Holowaty said. "It was great to see him get the winning hit, and then see his teammates bury him in a dogpile by first base."
"That was a great scene on the field right after the game," he added. "We had a big crowd today. Lots of students, family, friends and just fans from the community. Seeing everyone on the field celebrating after the game was special, especially for our three seniors (Korsmo, Richards, Patrick Stauffer).
The Whitman ninth capped a 20-hit explosion by Missionary offense. Cohen, who started on the mound for Whitman and went five innings, led the way with four hits, two RBI and two runs scored.
Korsmo, whose three hits included a triple, knocked in two runs and scored two more. Young and Minnick also finished with three hits apiece.
Richards, Madden and Buckham added two hits each.
Nick Ashley had three of Whitworth's 11 hits. The Pirates also got two hits apiece from Gerhard Muelheims and Tyler Pfeffer.
Weeks, a sophomore, played a huge role in Sunday's victory by blanking Whitworth on one hit over the final three and two-third innings. He struck out two and didn't walk a batter in earning his third victory of the season.
Weeks, who led the Whitman pitching staff in innings pitched this season, started the first game of Saturday's doubleheader and tossed six and one-third innings in that contest.
"I can't say enough about the toughness of Justin's pitching performance today," Holowaty said. "He shut down a good team and gave us the chance to come back."
Whitman, its roster filled with freshmen in Holowaty's second coaching year, ended its rebuilding season with records of 4-20 in the Northwest Conference and 5-30 overall.
Whitworth wrapped up its season with records of 13-11 in conference and 20-20 overall.
"Today was a window into the future of more success for Whitman baseball," Holowaty said. "Led by our seniors, this is a young team that has continued to develop and grow all season."
Whitworth 221 031 000 - 9 11 2
Whitman 020 030 401 - 10 20 2
Taylor, Duppenthaler (5), Johnson (6), Perry (8), Scott (9) and Takemura. Cohen, Matherly (6), Weeks (6) and Madden
HR - none.
Hits - Whitworth: Muelheims 2, Valerio, Scott, Jarrell, Pfeffer 2, Ashley 3, Takemura. Whitman: Madden 2, Richards 2, Young 3, Korsmo 3, Cohen 4, Minnick 3, Pentland, Buckham 2.