PARKLAND – Pacific Lutheran's quest for the inaugural Northwest Conference Baseball Tournament title came to an end Sunday afternoon, as third-seeded Whitworth scored seven unearned runs to upset the top-seeded Lutes and claim the crown 8-2 at PLU Field.
Whitworth improves to 28-13 overall and claims the NWC's automatic bid to the NCAA Div. III West Regional, while Pacific Lutheran falls to 28-11. The Lutes – ranked 18th in the last d3baseball.com Top 25 and first in the West Region rankings – claimed the regular-season conference crown and will look to strengthen their resume for an at-large bid at next weekend's PLU Tournament.
Pacific Lutheran's struggles began early, as a fielding error in the top of the first inning led to three unearned runs and prompted a pitching change as starter Ty Donahou lasted only one-third of an inning. Whitworth finished the frame with a 4-0 lead courtesy of three hits, a walk and the Lute error. A pair of walks in the second helped the Pirates load the bases with one out and prompted another PLU pitching change. Lee Larson induced an infield popup and a groundout to escape trouble and strand three runners on base without allowing a run.
The Lutes cut the deficit in half with a run in the second inning and another in the third. Collin Nilson opened the second with a double, and two outs later Jacob Clements brought him home with another double. In the third, Curtis Wildung stepped to the plate to lead off and crushed a 1-0 pitch nearly 400 feet to straightaway center field to clear the wall in the largest part of the park.
Any chance the Lutes had of claiming the momentum disappeared shortly after, however, as Whitworth took advantage of two more PLU errors to tack on three unearned runs. The final run of the game came in the sixth, as PLU fourth error of the day helped the Pirates score again before leaving the bases loaded.
Donahou took his first loss of the season, allowing the lone earned run of the day for the Pirates, while Jake Otness threw one inning and allowed a run. Larson threw 3.2 innings and allowed four unearned runs before Cory Nelson came in to throw three shutout innings with four strikeouts. Kort Skoda pitched the ninth for the Lutes.
Nilson finished the day with two hits, while Clements drove in the one run with his double and Wildung added his second home run of the season. Cory Mack earned his fifth win of the year for Whitworth, limiting PLU to two runs on four hits in seven innings. TJ Orchard pitched the final two frames and allowed one hit.
Whitworth caps a three-day run through the tournament that saw the Pirates no-hit Linfield on the first day and take advantage of spectacular defense to knock off the Lutes on the second day. The Pirates return to the regional tournament for the second time in four years after claiming the 2012 NWC title.
NWC regular-season champion PLU has three more games remaining on its schedule as the Lutes look to bolster an already-strong resume for an at-large bid. The Lutes will host Linfield Saturday at 1 p.m. before taking on Puget Sound at 4 p.m. in a day full of rivalry games. Senior Day Sunday will feature a 3 p.m. matchup against George Fox.