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College baseball notebook: Young Whitworth coach CJ Perry has Pirates sitting atop Northwest Conference standings

April 5, 2019

Don’t mistake CJ Perry’s youthful, clean-shaven face for frailty.

The second-year Whitworth coach – a 2008 Gonzaga Prep graduate – has the Pirates rolling.

Whitworth (14-11 overall, 11-4 Northwest Conference) sits in first place in the conference as it heads into this weekend’s series with Puget Sound (9-19, 8-7) at Merkel Field.

Perry, a former standout pitcher who helped the Pirates reach the NCAA Division III World Series in 2012, was his alma mater’s interim coach last season when he replaced former head coach Dan Ramsay, now a scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Pirates finished fifth in the NWC standings a year ago under Perry and was picked fifth in the 2019 conference preseason poll.

Now they’re overachieving.

Despite the loss of 6-foot-10 pitcher Hugh Smith – a sixth-round MLB draft pick last spring by the Detroit Tigers – and shortstop Joel Condreay, selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 31st round, Whitworth has found success.

“Having this whole full year to embrace behind the head coach has been big,” Perry said. “I’ve definitely felt more comfortable and have learned a lot.”

Perry points to his starting rotation of Matt Young (4-1, 2.92 ERA in NWC play), Austin Rice (3-0, 1.98 ERA) and Ryan Kingma (3-2, 4.94 ERA) as one of the primary reasons for the Pirates’ recent NWC surge.

Whitworth has won 10 of its past 12 games.

“Our starters have been taking us into the seventh inning, and that’s been big,” Perry said.

The Pirates have also been potent at the plate, led by Mt. Spokane product Tyler Bailey.

Five of Whitworth’s regular hitters are batting over .300 in NWC play, led by Bailey (.404 average, 23 hits, 12 RBIs).

“We lost a bit of a production, but guys have stepped up,” Perry said.

Harris on a roll for Gonzaga

Gonzaga third baseman Brett Harris has had a consistent couple of the weeks for the Bulldogs.

Harris, a transfer from Central Arizona Community College, has recorded hits in seven of his past nine games, a stretch in which he’s totaled nine hits and seven RBIs.

The Bulldogs (12-13, 5-4 West Coast Conference) begin a three-game series with WCC foe Pacific (15-13, 3-6) on Friday at Patterson Baseball Complex.

Cougs looking for first Pac-12 win

WSU may have snapped a 12-game skid in Tuesday’s 12-10 win over Gonzaga, but the Cougars (7-20, 0-6) are still winless in Pac-12 play.

The Cougars look to change that trend this weekend in a three-game series at California (14-11, 2-4).

Marysville, Washington, product Collin Montez leads the Cougars, hitting .304 with 31 hits,11 RBIs and two home runs.