McMINNVILLE, Ore. – The first time was the charm.
Whitworth has advanced to its first NCAA Division III Baseball Finals in its first trip to the Division III national tournament after a 9-2 win over 15th-ranked Trinity (Texas) in the championship game of the McMinnville Regional on Saturday afternoon.
In the third matchup of the regional between the third-seeded Pirates and second-seeded Tigers, the Bucs rolled to the title thanks to timely hitting and the shutdown relief pitching of Dan Scheibe. Scheibe finished the game with 4.1 innings of one-hit relief to improve to 7-2 this season.
Kevin Valerio, who led the tournament with seven RBIs, was named the regional MVP.
Trinity sent to the mound D3baseball.com West Region Pitcher of the Year Ben Klimesh, who fired a shutout with 12 strikeouts in the Tigers’ regional opening win over Coe. And Trinity looked confident when it took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning as Kelly Woodruff scored on a sacrifice fly.
But Whitworth tied the game on an identical play in the top of the second when Joshua Davis scored on Nick Motsinger’s fly out to center field. The Pirates took the lead for good with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
With Davis on third and Paul Miller on first base in the fourth, Miller appeared to be picked off by Klimesh. But he was in a rundown long enough to allow Davis to scamper home with the go-ahead run. Davis then added an RBI single in the fifth for a 3-1 Pirate lead.
Trinity got one run back in the bottom of the fifth when Clements drove in his second run of the game with an RBI single. Scheibe came on in relief with two outs and two runners on base and struck out Christian Muscarello to end the threat.
Whitworth broke the game open with five runs in the top of the seventh. With the bases loaded and one out Valerio singled in the first run with his seventh hit of the series. He batted .438 (7-16) to go with his regional-high of seven RBIs. Motsinger followed with a two-run double to right, and then with two outs Tyler Pfeffer doubled in the final two runs.
The Pirates added one more in the eighth when Miller singled home JR Jarrell.
The only hit off of Scheibe was Will Donnan’s one out double in the eighth. But Scheibe got the next two hitters to pop up. He then retired the side in order in the ninth to send the Pirates into a frenzy of celebration.
Davis, who was the early spark, went 2-2 with three runs scored and an RBI. Motsinger finished with three RBIs.
CJ Perry started on the mound for the Pirates and allowed one run on four hits in 3.1 innings. Jason Renner pitched 1.1 innings of relief and gave up one run on one hit.
Klimesh fell to 13-3 after allowing two runs on four hits in 4.0 innings with four walks. Four other Trinity pitchers followed and all allowed at least one run.
Whitworth seemed to get stronger as the regional went on, outscoring its opponents 26-3 over the final three games. The Pirates led the regional in team batting (.321), team fielding (.989) and were second in team ERA (2.25).
Whitworth will take on the winner of the Marietta (OH) Regional in the Pirates’ first game of the Division III World Series on Friday. That regional will be decided on Sunday when top-ranked Marietta takes on Manchester.
Whitworth’s only team national championship came in baseball when the Pirates won the 1960 NAIA World Series.
Valerio and Scheibe were joined on the All-Regional team by Landon Scott, Davis and Nikssarian.