Early-season baseball games in the Inland Northwest can be iffy propositions at best. Just getting a snow-free field can be tough until mid-March.
For proof, ask Whitworth baseball coach Dan Ramsey. The Pirates had one of their four home Northwest Conference baseball series scheduled for last weekend snowed under.
Ramsey had to play weatherman as well as coach, checking forecasts and trying to line up a backup facility. He did. The Pirates and Puget Sound met in Pasco and played their NWC-opening three-game set. The Loggers won twice.
“I checked about 10 different locations,” before settling on Columbia Basin College, said Ramsey, in his third season at Whitworth. “The coaches in this conference, we’re kind of used to it. Sad as that is to say that, we’re used to having to be flexible.”
The Pirates (6-9 overall) shouldn’t have the same trouble this weekend with a three-game NWC series with Lewis & Clark in Portland, though showers are in the forecast.
Not only should the weather be warmer, the Pioneers are struggling, just 2-12 overall and 1-8 in NWC play.
“Every weekend our expectation is to go in and win every game,” Ramsey said. “But this weekend could be a big one for us. … If we can get a sweep, we’ll walk away at 4-2 (in NWC play) and right back in the mix of things.”
Being at .500 would be a big deal for Whitworth. The Pirates haven’t finished above the break-even mark since 2005 and are 29-62 in Ramsey’s tenure.
“We’re really happy where we are at,” Ramsey said. “Again, 6-9 is not something we want to be boasting we’re happy about, but when we compare it to where we’ve been in the past … we know we’re getting better. We feel it in the dugout. The games are little more competitive, they’re getting closer.
“And people fail to realize, we’re 15 games into the season and we’ve only had two practices on a baseball field.”
One player the opposition is pitching better against is third baseman Landon Scott. As a sophomore last season, Scott hit .465, belting six home runs as part of his 74 hits.
This season Scott is certainly not struggling – he’s at .309 with two home runs and 10 RBIs – but is not in last season’s stratosphere.
“It’s going to be hard for him to match the year he had last year,” Ramsey said. “I don’t know if that will happen very often in my career as a coach.
“He’s not surprising anyone, that’s for sure. They know he’s our guy and they are trying to attack him like he’s our guy.”
Freshman second baseman Tyler Pfeffer from Shadle Park has followed Scott in the four hole all year, hitting .288 and leading the Pirates with 14 RBIs.
The pitching staff, anchored by starter CJ Perry (3-1), will get another arm soon.
Basketball star Michael Taylor, who hasn’t pitched since his Brewster High days, will get some innings then. Ramsey hoped to have Taylor this weekend, but the senior is appearing in a basketball all-star game.
“He’s going to go finish up that all-star game and we’ll have him next week,” Ramsey said, adding he just watched Taylor throw a bullpen. “He’ll probably start against Central (Washington) during one of our midweek games. He’s been doing a good job of keeping his arm in shape.”
Around the area
Washington State (9-4, winners of four consecutive games) travels to California this week for a crucial pre-Pac-10 Conference four-game series with 19th-ranked Fresno State. The Bulldogs (11-2) pitching staff boasts an almost unheard of 2.72 team earned-run average, led by senior right-hander Greg Gonzales’ 0.98 in four starts. The Western Athletic Conference pitcher of the week is 3-0 and is expected to start the opener Thursday. … The Cougars’ starting lineup Sunday had seven players hitting .300 or better, with the only two not above that line, middle infielder Cody Bartlett (a team-leading .323 hitter last season) and outfielder Derek Jones (.309 with a team-best 12 home runs in 2010). Bartlett goes into the week at .295 and Jones at .268. … Last year’s ace Chad Arnold, out all season with an elbow problem, is penciled in to start Sunday’s game. His replacement in series openers, left-hander Adam Conley, is 4-0. … Gonzaga (7-7) travels to San Antonio for the Irish Baseball Classic, where it will open against Iowa. Notre Dame is also part of the three-team tournament. … The Bulldogs, who are 7-2 in the their last nine games, took two of three from Minnesota last weekend in Sacramento, scoring 25 runs in the final two. Senior Taylor Chism is hitting .347 and leading the Zags with two home runs. But pitching has been GU’s strong point, with a team ERA of 3.46 and just two home runs allowed in 14 games. Senior Cody Martin and junior Andy Hunter have been lights out in relief, with ERAs of 0.93 and 1.20, respectively. They both have two wins. … CCS will take a 3-5 record into a four-game home nonconference series with Grays Harbor this weekend.