Boxers hang on to first place despite series loss to Whitworth
Pacific drops two of three over the weekend, but maintains its one-game NWC lead
Pacific escaped Spokane still in first place in the Northwest Conference baseball standings, but Whitworth made the Boxers' potential march to a conference title much tougher.
The Boxers saw scoring chances come up empty in eight of nine innings Sunday as Whitworth picked up a 3-1 win, punctuating a series victory that pulled the Pirates within a game of first place in the NWC standings.
After losing two of three to the Pirates over the weekend, Pacific's quest for its first NWC crown since 1979 will be anything but easy. The Boxers (17-13, 14-4) hold a one-game lead over Whitworth (20-12-1, 13-5), a 1½-game lead over third-place Linfield and a two-game lead over Pacific Lutheran.
Pacific, Whitworth and PLU each have six conference games left in the regular season, with the Lutes and Boxers scheduled to square off in Tacoma next weekend. Linfield has just three league games remaining.
Pacific had runners in scoring position in every inning but the sixth on Sunday and left 13 runners on base. Whitworth, meanwhile, made the most of scoring chances in the fourth and fifth, plating three runs to take the lead for good.
The Boxers scored their only run of the game in the seventh inning, getting a double from Kevin Schwartz, followed by a sacrifice fly from Nick Tasaka and an RBI single from Jared Van Hoon that cut the deficit to 3-1.
The Boxers appeared to have a full-fledged rally going as Nate Rasmussen followed with a single and both runners advanced again on a wild pitch, but Whitworth reliever C.J. Perry induced Mike Nagamine into a comebacker to end the inning.
Pacific had two runners on base with one out in the top of the ninth, but Whitworth closer Jason Renner got the final two outs to end the game.
Pacific starter Chad Fahey dropped to 4-2 on the season with the loss, allowing three runs on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts in six innings of work.
Spencer Ansett got the win for Whitworth, improving to 5-3 while allowing one run on seven hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. Renner earned his NWC-leading sixth save of the year.
Schwartz finished with a 3-for-5 afternoon to lead the Boxers offensively, while Van Hoon and Rasmussen had two hits apiece.
The highlight of the weekend came a day earlier in the series opener when Pacific junior Rob Dittrick earned his seventh straight win and his fourth complete game victory of the season in a 6-2 win.
The Boxers scored three runs in the second inning, capped by Tasaka's RBI single, and Nagamine brought in two more runs with a two-run home run to right-center field in the third. Donnie Bradley added an insurance run in the fourth, bunting his way on base and eventually scoring on a double steal.
Whitworth's Dan Scheibe put together an equally impressive effort in the nightcap on Saturday, allowing just six hits as the Pirates scored in each of the first five innings in a 7-1 win.
Mike McGuire picked up the first loss in his last four starts to fall to 3-2 on the season. He allowed five runs on eight hits with a walk in three innings. Scheibe went the distance to improve to 3-2 on the year, allowing one run on six hits with 12 strikeouts.
Pacific is scheduled to host Puget Sound this weekend for its final NWC home series of the season. Saturday's doubleheader and Sunday's single game will both begin at noon.