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Boxers lose twice versus Whitworth at tourney

Pacific goes down swinging at NWC baseball tournament

Pacific’s NCAA tournament hopes came to an end over the weekend with a pair of losses to top-ranked Whitworth at the Northwest Conference Tournament in Spokane, but the Boxers didn’t go down without a fight.

Pacific pushed the Pirates to the brink in the tournament opener on Friday, rallying late but coming up short in a 5-3 defeat that sent the Boxers into the consolation bracket. There, they pounded out 18 hits in a 17-9 rout of George Fox on Saturday morning to stay alive, but Whitworth eked out a 6-5 victory in the evening game to eliminate the Boxers.

That win vaulted Whitworth into Sunday’s tournament championship, but the Pirates could not defend their regular season NWC title, dropping a 6-5 decision to Pacific Lutheran.

The Lutes (25-16) earned the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament, while the Pirates (27-10) will have to wait to see if they earn an at-large berth.

Pacific went 24-16 overall this season and 14-10 in NWC play, which tied the Boxers for third place and earned them a spot in the annual conference tournament.

The Boxers’ tourney run got off to an inauspicious beginning on Friday when Whitworth scored four runs in the bottom of the first and built a 5-0 lead through two innings.

Pacific chipped away at that lead, scoring a run in the top of the fourth on consecutive singles from Walker Olis, Kurtis Kloke and Dylan Wright.

The Boxers added two more runs in the sixth, when Olis doubled and Wright stroked a two-run homer — his third of the season — to make it 5-3.

Pacific starting pitcher Paul Wolfram settled in after a rough start and put nothing but zeros on the scoreboard. From the third inning to the eighth, he tossed 5.2 innings and gave up only four hits and no runs, keeping the Boxers in the game.

Pacific did put some pressure on the Pirates late in the game.

In the seventh, catcher Kane Ulrich singled and stole a base, but was stranded. In the eighth, Ben Roquet doubled but was left at second base. And in the ninth, pinch hitter Justin Strayer singled and Ulrich came through with another base knock, but Whitworth closer J.D. Page got the final out of the game on a line out to third base.

The Boxers rebounded by feasting on George Fox pitching on Saturday in an elimination game. Olis led the hit parade with two home runs, a double and three RBIs as Pacific stormed to a 17-9 victory.

Despite the lopsided score, the Boxers actually had to come from behind after George Fox built a 5-1 lead through three innings.

The Boxers got things started with three runs in the top of the fourth, topped by a two-run double from Ulrich. Pacific tied the contest in the fifth on the first of Olis’ two home runs, a solo shot that made it 6-6.

Pacific lit up the scoreboard again in the sixth, all with two outs. Joey Galeno drove in two runs with a single, as did Strayer to give the Boxers an 11-7 lead they would never relinquish. Pacific put up three more runs in the seventh and pushed a trio of runners across home plate in the ninth as well. Olis hit his two-run shot in the ninth, his 11th of the season.

In another elimination game on Saturday night, Whitworth jumped out to a 6-0 lead after four innings and pitcher T.J. Orchard took a no-hitter into the sixth before Pacific rallied, but the Boxers came up just short in a 6-5 setback.

Ulrich finally got the first hit of the night off Orchard in the sixth inning, and Eli Wisdom quickly added another. Roquet followed with a three-run blast over the left field fence, and all of a sudden the Boxers were within three runs at 6-3.

In the eighth, the freshman Wisdom again scratched a hit off of Orchard, chasing the starter from the game. Roquet greeted reliever Arory Milyard with a double, and Olis drove both Boxers home with a single up the middle to make the count 6-5. One batter later, Milyard left the game and Whitworth’s Kelly Fitzpatrick entered.

With Olis on first base and the hot-hitting Dylan Wright at bat, the unthinkable happened. For the first time all season — and the first time in his three years at Pacific — Olis was thrown out trying to steal second base by the combination of Fitzpatrick and catcher Nate Lamberty. Wright then grounded out to end the inning.

Pacific had one more opportunity in the ninth when Charlie Dietrich walked, but Fitzpatrick struck out two batters and induced a ground ball for the third out to end the game.

The Boxers will wrap up their season with a three-game non-conference series at Willamette on Saturday and Sunday.