The dream season is over for Nick Combo and the Whitworth University Pirates as they suffered an agonizing defeat at the claws of Cortland State Red Dragons on Monday to eliminate them from the NCAA Div. III World Series.
It was the first trip to the Div III World Series for the small Spokane college, and for Trail Jays coach Nick Combo who pitches for the Pirates, it was a great way to end his college career.
After splitting their first two games, the Pirates faced Cortland State to see which team went to the semifinal and which one would go home.
Whitworth took a 3-2 lead in the third inning, but Cortland State stormed back scoring two in the sixth to go up 4-3. The Dragons added another in the seventh, however, Whitworth replied to cut the lead to 5-4 in the eighth, but that was as close as they’d come, as they went in order in the ninth.
“It was disappointing but anyone could have won that one, it was up for grabs,” said Combo on his way home to Spokane Tuesday.
The Pirates almost didn’t make it to the series in the first place.
At the Regionals in Oregon, Whitworth lost to Trinity (Texas) in the round robin sending them to the loser’s bracket. But they then routed Concordia 8-3, and rebounded to eviscerate Trinity twice in the final, 12-0 and 9-2, and punch their ticket to the World Series.
“That was probably one of the best baseball weekends we’ve had and I thought that we really played pretty well,” said Combo.
The Pirates were off to face the best Div. III teams in the nation, still, Combo and his fellow swashbucklers remained confident.
“I expected us to compete pretty well. I mean all of those teams are pretty big-name teams and have been to the College World Series a bunch in the last 10 years or so, and we were kind of the underdog team.”
In their first test, they faced the defending World Series champions Marietta College Pioneers, a team that has won it all twice in the past six years.
The powerhouse Pioneers subdued the Pirates 13-2 in the opener, with Combo coming on in relief and performing well, ceding four hits and four earned runs in 2 2/3 innings of work.
“That was quite an experience to pitch in that,” said Combo. “It’s nothing like I’ve ever been in before. I mean I’ve played in pretty big tournaments but to make it to the World Series and actually get to play is something that is very special.”
The Pirates weren’t done, however, as they laid siege to Christopher Newport University, a game played over two days due to rain delays. When it was over, Newport eventually capitulated and the Buccaneers came away with a 7-2 victory on Sunday.
The loss to the Dragons on Monday, however, ended their run, but did not take away from an exceptional Pirate season.
“We would have liked this to last longer,” said Whitworth coach Dan Ramsay in the post-game press conference. “But this group of seniors deserved everything they accomplished this year and they have nothing to hang their heads about.”
Ramsay, also a former Trail Jays coach, led Whitworth to its best season ever with 31 wins, 16 losses and 1 tie, smashing the previous school record for wins in a season.
It was a great swan-song for Combo who graduated last month.
To finish college and the senior year on such a high note is incredible, he said.
“It was a huge turn around for me going from our team being not so great to doing pretty well this year – it was an unbelievable experience.”
Combo plans to return to the Jays lineup later this week.
Trail Jays Tweets
After suffering four tough losses to the Northeast 49ers on the weekend, the Trail Jays travel south this weekend for two double headers against the 49ers in Colville and the Pullman Patriots.