SPOKANE, Wash – A ninth-inning unearned run was the difference as visiting Pacific Lutheran pulled out a 1-0 win over Whitworth on Sunday afternoon at Merkel Field.
The Lutes took two of three in the Northwest Conference series to improve to 12-5 overall and 7-1 in the NWC. The Pirates dropped to 6-9, 3-3 following the pitchers' duel that lasted less than two hours.
Collin Nilson scored the winning run in the top of the ninth inning after he led off with a double down the left field line. He scored when Drew Oord's sacrifice bunt was thrown past first base for an error. Relief pitcher Jason Renner was able to get the next three outs without any more runs scoring, but the damage had been done.
AJ Konopaski threw a perfect ninth inning for his eighth save of the season. He came on in relief of Derrick Mahlum, the PLU starting pitcher who allowed only two hits in eight innings of work. Mahlum, a freshman, improved to 4-1 this season after he struck out six batters and walked three.
Whitworth threatened to score in the second inning when an error and a single put two runners on base with only one out. But Mahlum got the next two Pirates on strikeouts to end the threat.
The Bucs also had potential go-ahead runs on in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. But each of those frames ended with a ground ball double play.
Whitworth starting pitcher Spencer Ansett matched Mahlum zero for zero. Ansett went 7.2 innings and scattered six hits. He struck out three and walked one batter, but came away with a no-decision. Renner (0-1) was the hard-luck losing pitcher after giving up one unearned run and one hit over the final 1.1 innings.
Whitworth returns to action next weekend with a three-game Northwest Conference series at defending national champion Linfield.