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College baseball: Whitworth hits its stride

When Dan Ramsay took over as Whitworth University’s baseball coach last year, he was basically the same age as some of his players. That wouldn’t do. So he now has younger players.

No, not really. It’s just coincidence the Pirates have mainly sophomores and freshmen contributing to one of their best Northwest Conference starts in years.

“It’s a slow process because, right now, we are a young team,” said Ramsay of the Pirates, 5-4 in NWC play after taking two of three on the road against perennial conference power Linfield last Saturday – a three-game day necessitated by bad weather. “With that youth, we have some inconsistencies. But when we put it together, we’re a pretty solid team.”

The road wins were not unexpected, but they did open some eyes around the conference, Ramsay said.

“I think we knew we could do it, but we proved to everyone else we can,” he said.

One of the few upperclassmen, redshirt junior Kyle Krustangel, has been carrying a big load of the offense.

The Ferris High graduate is hitting .423, with a team-high five home runs, including a grand slam that powered the Pirates to a 4-0 win in the middle game.

“He’s been a tough out for a lot of teams,” Ramsay said of the left-hand hitting designated hitter. “It’s been a lot of fun to watch, to be honest, because he’s such a hard-working kid and such a positive kid. He’s one of those guys you root for because you want him to have success because he deserves it.”

One difference between the Pirates now and the preseason – Whitworth is 8-15 overall – is the solid pitching of C.J. Perry (from Gonzaga Prep) and Jake Hanley, both 2-0 with earned-run averages less than 2.00 in conference games.

Whitworth has also found a closer in Landon Scott, who hit a team-best .417 last season as a freshman and is hitting .373 this year.

He bugged Ramsay all last season for a chance on the mound, but never got it.

“I went and watched him this summer,” Ramsay said. “I watched him pitch and I thought, ‘Gosh, this is a no-brainer. I’ve got to use him.’

“He’s got three saves on the year and he throws hard. He’s got a 90 mph fastball.”

The Pirates host George Fox this weekend, then travel to NWC-leading Pacific Lutheran the week after, heading through the toughest stretch the young team will see.

“We’ve put ourselves in a good position, but we’re going to have to put it together again this weekend if we’re going to have some success,” Ramsay said.

Cougs miss energy

The Pac-10 season opens this week for Washington State with three games in Seattle against archrival Washington, starting Thursday.

The Huskies, under first-year coach Lindsay Meggs, were 11-10 going into Tuesday night’s scheduled game with Seattle U. Spokane’s Andrew Kittredge leads the Huskies with a 4-2 record.

“The word is they are going to be more aggressive,” WSU coach Donnie Marbut said. “They want to steal bases, they are going to bunt more. … It sounds like they play with a lot of energy. I’m looking forward to seeing a team that plays with a lot of energy.”

Marbut doesn’t think he’s getting that from his team right now, as the Cougars (14-7) are just 5-5 in the last 10 games.

“I probably should just apologize because watching us play is not fun,” Marbut said. “It’s probably fun for the opponent, because we don’t play with a lot of passion or energy.

“We’re not playing poorly, but I wouldn’t say we’re playing good either. And we’re trying to play great baseball.”

It may not be the best time for WSU to be sputtering. Not only do the Cougars face UW this weekend, they head to BYU for games Monday and Tuesday, then return next weekend to host undefeated and second-ranked Arizona State.

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