Written by Student Assistant Christian Bond
TACOMA, Wash. – The Pacific Lutheran University baseball team has climbed to 12th in the D3baseball.com Top 25 poll after sweeping Pacific University at home. Now the team travels to Spokane for a tough test against the Whitworth University Pirates, playing a three-game Northwest Conference series along with a non-conference game to close the trip.
The first-place Lutes (12-3, 10-2 NWC) are off to their best start in program history. A big key to the Lutes' success has been the experience of senior Ben Welch. The shortstop spent his fall semesters as a wide receiver for the PLU football team. Welch has already been through one senior season. It's allowing him to be more appreciative of what his spring team has done thus far.
"I know that after this season there likely isn't going to be another season for me in any sport," Welch said. "Which is sort of scary because I have played sports my whole life but I am confident that I will be able to take the energy and competitive nature that I have been using in sports and transfer it over to my career, whatever that might be."
The 22-year old has spent four years at PLU and has been a part of eight sports seasons. On the gridiron, he played in 36 games, catching 103 passes for 1,000 yards and three touchdowns.
In the spring, Welch has been in 142 games and counting. He's a career .303 hitter with 165 hits, including 22 doubles, and four home runs. He's driven in 74 runs, and scored 97.
Like the statistics, the relationships Welch has created will last a lifetime. Being a dual-sport athlete has allowed Welch to have several hundred teammates in his time as a Lute.
"I have enjoyed my experience in both sports," Welch said. "Both have given me the opportunity to make some really good friends as well as compete at a very high level. When I look back on my college experience I will remember a few of the big games that we played in but mostly I will take away the memories that I made with my teammates. By playing two sports I was able to maximize those opportunities. But I cannot chose a favorite."
Both of Welch's parents were athletes in their time at PLU. His father Steve played football, and was inducted into the PLU Athletics Hall of Fame last fall. Caryn, Ben's mother, was a part of the rowing team. In his down time, Welch enjoys relaxing at a beach cabin his family, and other PLU families own.
"My parents have done a great job with staying in touch with all of their college friends through the years," Welch said. "It is one of the reasons I choose to come to PLU and I look forward to doing the same after graduation."
Welch is hoping graduation doesn't come too quick, as his teammates look to continue their winning ways against Whitworth this weekend.
Mar. 18-19: PLU vs. Whitworth at Merkel Field in Spokane, Washington (11 a.m.)
Series History: PLU and Whitworth have been two of the top teams in the Northwest Conference over the past several years. The team's played for the conference tournament title last season, with the Lutes winning 8-5. The team's have split the last 10 games against each other. The Pirates have the upper hand overall, going 66-57 against the Lutes.
About the Pirates: Whitworth (9-6, 3-5 NWC) has gotten off to a slow start this season heading into its first homestand of the year. The Pirates have one of the best power hitters in the Northwest Conference. Utility man Matthew Nelson has hit five home runs, and has driven in 21 runs, the most in conference. Daniel Casanova leads the league in stolen bases with 15, nearly twice as many as next closest, Tyler Janitz of Willamette University who has eight. On the mound, Ryan Kingma has a 1.97 earned run average in 32 innings of work.