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From Borleske to Safeco: Baseball Closes Memorable Season

JOHN VINCENT LEE

JOHN VINCENT LEE

Quinn Salkind, Staff Reporter

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The Whitman Blues baseball team ended their season falling painfully shy of a playoff berth in their final weekend match up against Linfield College. With the possibility of a win during the weekend, and a combination of possible outcomes across the Northwest Conference, the team still had a chance on the final day of the season. Although the cards didn’t fall in the right direction, this 17-20 season was one of the best for the team in a long time.

The previous two seasons saw the team posting six and 13 win seasons. This year marked the second highest win total that the baseball team has achieved in the last 35 years of the program.

“This year’s team really proved that hard work will continue to push to program forward. While we didn’t quite achieve our ultimate goal in the end, we made huge strides through our determination and our hard work,” sophomore first baseman Lucas Thrun said.

“We came a long way this year, making big positive strides as a program with our culture and expectations both on and off the field. I am proud of how our players competed and how they’ve represented themselves in the community,” head coach Brian Kitamura said.

The season brought many unforgettable moments for the program. In February, first year Eric Ma threw a no-hitter against the Whitworth Pirates to complete a series sweep. The 12-strikeout performance turned out to be one of the best of the year, with only four base runners being allowed, via walks, the whole nine innings.

The team also hosted what was Whitman College’s largest ever alumni event to take place off-campus at the Seattle Mariners’ Safeco Field. The Bud Knight Memorial Series turned out to be the highlight of the season for many.

JOHN VINCENT LEE

“Having the opportunity to play at Safeco was a once in a lifetime type of experience. It was incredible to see the support from alumni and get to play on that stage,” Kitamura said.

March brought the program’s annual little league camp, which was their most successful community outreach program to date in terms of attendance.

“The little league camp was a blast. This year, we had the most little leaguers we had ever had at one of our camps and it was a great chance for the team to interact with the community and give back. Hopefully a lot of them will stick with the sport and will be playing in the future too,” junior pitcher John Lyon said.

The team was also active in the Whitman community, teaming up with the Green Dot program to host an awareness event during an afternoon ballgame. The program is an effort to create safe social environments and combat sexual assault through peer-to-peer action.

On the field, there were great individual performances throughout the season. Juniors Joe Zimmer and Adrian Vela each had six home runs and 28 runs-batted-in on the year. Zimmer led the team in on-base-percentage with a staggering 0.489, leading the NWC. Ma led Whitman’s starting pitchers with an ERA of 2.98 (runs allowed per nine innings pitched), while senior Garrett Atkinson led relievers with a 1.96 ERA.

“This year was special–we continued to get closer and become more of a family. When we lost, we lost together, and when we won, we won together. We will maintain that mentality for working hard next year, and considering we are bringing a lot of guys back, it’s really going to be something to see when we take the field,” Thrun said.

Carrying their core forward, the Blues look to continue their upward trend next season with a strong squad. Coach Kitamura has high hopes.

“We are very excited about next year, especially with this year’s juniors rising to be seniors and really helping take our program to the next level with what we’ve been building,” Kitamura said. “We will have to work hard every single day to reach our goals and exceed our own expectations, but with this group coming back and the recruiting class we have coming in, the sky is the limit. The vast majority of our roster returns and we fully expect our newcomers to compete for significant time in our everyday lineup immediately.”

JOHN VINCENT LEE

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Whitman news since 1896
From Borleske to Safeco: Baseball Closes Memorable Season