Whitman earns first NWC tournament title

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SPOKANE, Wash. - The Whitman College baseball team had two cracks at its first Northwest Conference Tournament title today, coming up short to host Whitworth in its first but rallying in a winner-take-all game for an 8-7 win over the Pirates on Sunday and its first-ever league tournament crown.

Whitman looked to be in good shape as Whitworth still needed to conclude its Saturday night game against Pacific which had been suspended due to darkness. The Bucs closed out that game but when Whitman went up 3-0 after two and one-half innings, a conference title seemed well within the Blues' grasp. Whitworth would rally, using a six-run fourth inning to knock starter Eric Ma (7-2) out of the game and pull away for a 9-6 win.

With the momentum swung in favor of Whitworth, the Bucs took it to Whitman (23-17) in the championship game as the Blues found themselves down four runs after four innings. Tyler Baily drove a Charlie Carmichael pitch through the left side of the infield to plate two runs for the Bucs.

Whitman manufactured a pair of runs one-half inning later, but Whitworth put four on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth. Cody Simmons' solo homer and a two-RBI hit from Nicholas Nerud were the big hits of the inning.

Enter Travis Craven (6-5), who would steady the Whitworth bats and pave the way for a Whitman rally. Pitching extended innings for the second time in three days, he allowed one earned run in the final five and one-third innings to help his team to the win.

RBI base hits from both David Johnson (1 H, 1 R, 1 RBI) and Kevin Nakamura (1 H, 1 RBI) shaved the deficit to one run in the fifth but Joe Howell's RBI double for the Bucs pushed the lead back up at 7-5 through five innings.

The Blues would tie the game in the sixth inning. Lucas Thrun (1 H, 1 R, 1 RBI) doubled home Jerick Nomura to cut the lead to one then Kyle Reisman, as part of his monster four hit, one run, two RBI performance, drove home Thrun with a base hit to even the score at 7-7.

Reisman capped his stellar day two innings later with what proved to be the game-winning RBI. Craven was near perfect in recording the final six outs. He retired six of Whitworth's final seven hitters to lift the Blues to the title.

As the league's automatic qualifier, the Blues will wait for the NCAA to make their postseason selections and where they will open regional play. In the meantime, Whitman will travel to Tacoma next weekend for the NWC Round Robin which includes games against Pacific Lutheran, Puget Sound and Whitworth.