SPOKANE — After all of the home runs and dramatic base hits, it was a pair of bases-loaded walks in the 11th inning that lifted visiting Whitman to a dramatic 8-6 victory over Whitworth in the finale of a Northwest Conference baseball series on Sunday afternoon at Merkel Field.
The Missionaries close the season with a record of 20-18-1, a milestone mark for a team that won only five games two years ago.
The Pirates finish the year 13-22, but with a final conference mark of 10-14 Whitworth closes the year one game ahead of Whitman (9-15) in the NWC standings.
The fireworks came early and late in this one. Whitman got two-run home runs from Ozzy Braff (first inning) and Aaron Cohen (third inning) to grab a 4-1 lead. The Pirates’ run came courtesy of a solo homer from Nick Motsinger.
Whitworth closed to within 4-3 in the fifth thanks to a two-out rally. Motsinger drew a walk with two outs and Gerhard Muelheims and Joshua Davis followed with singles to cut the lead in half. Tyler Pfeffer’s double trimmed the margin to one.
The score remained 4-3 until the ninth when the Pirates scored the tying run without the benefit of a hit. But two hit batters and a walk had the bases loaded with two outs. Pfeffer drew a walk that forced in the tying run, but Cameron Young induced Thomas Wakem to ground out to keep the game tied.
The Missionaries jumped back ahead 6-4 in the top of the tenth on a two-run double by Paul Heywood. But the Pirates answered again when Matt Nelson opened the tenth with a double and scored on Justin Liu’s first home run of the season.
Jack Coppinger pitched to one batter in the tenth with two on and only one out. But he caught Muelheims’ line drive back to the mound and quickly turned to double the runner off second base. That play would prove crucial and led to Coppinger (2-0) getting credit for the win.
A walk, a single and a walk loaded the bases for Whitman with one out in the 11th. Pinch hitter Peter Carmichael drew another walk to force in the go-ahead run. After Jason Renner replaced Taylor Isadore on the mound, Young (who had moved back to second base), drew another walk to give Whitman its final run. Renner got Heywood to hit into a double play to end the inning.
Will Thompson, Whitman’s starting pitcher in game two, tossed a 1-2-3 ninth to pick up his second save this season.
Whitman used seven pitchers in the game, despite the fact that Cohen went the first seven innings and gave up only three runs on six hits. But he would not get the win after the Pirates tied the game in the ninth.
Whitman 8, Whitworth 6
Whitman 202 000 000 22 — 8 12 1
Whitworth 100 020 001 20 — 6 9 0
Cohen, DeStefano (8), Young (8), Johnson (9), Mathieu (9), Coppinger (10), Thompson (11) and Harned. Ansett, Scheibe (4), Isadore (9), Renner (11) and Davis.
HR — Whitman: Braff, Cohen. Whitworth: Motsinger.
Hits — Whitman: Madden, Buckham 2, Braff 2, Cohen 2, Young, Heywood, Konolige 2, Chow. Whitworth: Motsinger, Muelheims, Davis 2, Pfeffer, Wakem, Nelson 2, Liu.