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GNAC Baseball Championships Begin Thursday
Western Oregon, Northwest Nazarene and Montana State Billings will compete for the title of GNAC Champions Thursday and Friday.
Western Oregon, Northwest Nazarene and Montana State Billings will compete for the title of GNAC Champions Thursday and Friday.
The 2015 GNAC Baseball Championships will be held at Dehler Park in Billings, Mont.
The 2015 GNAC Baseball Championships will be held at Dehler Park in Billings, Mont.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

GNAC Baseball Championships
May 7-8 at Dehler Park in Billings, Mont.

Thursday
Game 1:
 #3 Northwest Nazarene vs #2 Western Oregon, 1 p.m. (MST)
Game 2: #3 Northwest Nazarene vs #1 Montana State Billings, 4 p.m. (MST)
Game 3: #2 Western Oregon vs #1 Montana State Billings, 7 p.m. (MST)

Friday
Game 4: TBD, noon
Game 5 (if necessary): TBD, 3 p.m.

BILLINGS, Mont. – After clinching its first-ever GNAC regular-season title last week, Montana State Billings will be the host for the 2015 GNAC Baseball Championships May 7-8.

The Yellowjackets, who earned the No. 1 seed at the tournament, will be joined at Dehler Park in Billings by two-seed Western Oregon and three-seed Northwest Nazarene.

Play in the double-elimination tournament will begin Thursday with three games at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. All times are in Mountain Standard Time.

The top two teams coming out of Thursday’s games will play in the GNAC championship game Friday beginning at noon. If the three teams go 1-1 in Thursday’s action, MSUB will reach the championship game because it is the top seed while WOU and NNU would face off in a play-in game Friday morning.

Tickets for these games can be purchased at the gates of Dehler Park. Live video with play-by-play commentary as well as live statistics will be available online at GNAC.TV for those unable to attend.

These pairings were not decided until the last day of the regular-season. Northwest Nazarene won its sole game needed to reach the tournament against Western Oregon last Saturday, clinching the third-seed. The NNU win and WOU loss opened a door for MSUB to clinch the No. 1 seed with a sweep of SMU.

The Yellowjackets snapped the Wolves 13-year streak of regular-season championships dating back to the 2002 season.

Matchups by the Numbers

  Montana State Billings Western Oregon Northwest Nazarene
Seed 1 2 3
Overall Record 27-21 26-23 27-26
GNAC Record 22-10 21-11 15-17
Team Batting Line
(BA/OBP/SLG) 
.316/.403/.456 .268/.357/.369 .276/.359/.412
Team ERA 5.89 4.22 4.90
Fielding % .963 .973 .964
Record vs MSUB --- 5-3 1-7
Record vs WOU 3-5 --- 4-4
Record vs NNU 7-1 4-4 ---

 

No. 1 – Montana State Billings Yellowjackets
Record: 27-21 Overall, 22-10 GNAC
All-Conference Selections: First-team – Brody Miller (Player of the Year), Brady Muller, Luke Reinschmidt, Tanner Johnson, Corey Morris, Trevor Nix. Second-team – Conner Holbrook, Casey Merritt. HM – Myles Berkram. Coach of the Year - Rob Bishop.

Two weeks ago, MSUB was three wins out of first place and .500 overall for the season. Since then, the Yellowjackets have gone 7-1 and finished the season as the regular-season champions.

All year long, the Yellowjackets have won games through their offense. Ranking first in nearly every offensive category in the GNAC, the No. 1 seeded team has outscored their opponents by 37 runs this season.

Seven starters have batting averages over .300. Leading this group is first-team all-conference selections Brody Miller and Luke Reinschmidt. Miller and Reinschmidt are the two batters pitchers don’t want to face in the GNAC, combining for 24 home runs and 115 RBI’s in 48 games.

Miller was the GNAC Player of the Year for the second season in a row. Reinschmidt was named the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Associations National Player of the Week in February after hitting four home runs. Bottom line, facing these two batters usually ends in runs on the board.

As potent as the MSUB offense is, its pitching may be the reason it’s the top seed in the tournament.

Headlining this group is first-team selections Brady Muller and Tanner Johnson. These two have won consecutive GNAC Pitcher of the Week awards coming into the Championships. Having 6-1 records, the duo has struck-out a combined 128 batters this year.

Defensively, the Yellowjackets have a flair for the dramatic having turned two triple plays this season. The first one was featured on SportsCenter’s Top 10 while the second was a game-ender against NNU.

The Yellowjackets will be gaining a significant advantage playing at their home Dehler Park where they are 11-5 this season.
 

No. 2 – Western Oregon Wolves
Record: 26-23 Overall, 21-11 GNAC
All-Conference Selections: First-team – Jesse Pratt (Pitcher of the Year), Garret Harpole, Matt Taylor, Shawn Domke, Nathan Etheridge. Second-team – Brady Miller (Freshman of the Year), Garrett Alvarez, Darrien Moran, Cody Sullivan. HM – Marcus Hinkle.

Western Oregon saw its 13-year run of regular-season championships come to a close last week, falling just one game short of another title.

That said, the Wolves were virtually in first-place in the GNAC the entire season and have talent on both sides of the plate to compete with the rest of the field.

The best part of WOU’s team is their defense. With a .973 fielding percentage, the Wolves are the ninth most efficient team defensively in Division II. Western Oregon also turns the 11th most double plays nationally with 46, just under one per game.

On the mound, Western Oregon is led by the GNAC Pitcher of the Year Jesse Pratt. The senior had the GNAC’s lowest ERA by nearly a run at 2.62 and led the conference in wins with seven. As a team, the Wolves were the only squad to allow less than 289 runs, finishing the year with 216 opposing runners crossing the plate and only 184 of those earned.

Offensively, first-team seniors Matt Taylor and Garret Harpole have the big bats swatting 10 home runs and 23 doubles between them.

Once one base, which happens nearly 36 percent of the time, the Wolves are known to steal bases having taken 40 already this season.
 

No. 3 Northwest Nazarene Crusaders
Record: 27-26 Overall, 15-17 GNAC
All-Conference Selections: First-team – Tyler Davis (Newcomer of the Year), Josh Hatfield, Andrew Helmstadter. HM – Jake Reppert, Blake Mitchell, Colton Loomis, Colben McGuire, Jesse Hilyard.

Northwest Nazarene is making its first postseason appearance since 1992 and first-ever GNAC Championships appearance after finishing the season with a 27-26 record.

The Crusaders got there after fending off the Wolves in a 12 inning battle last weekend, needing only one win to reach the postseason entering the series finale.

Pitching and extra-base hits have been the forte for the Crusaders this season. Having the second-lowest ERA in the conference, NNU pitchers have thrown the second-most shutouts and accounted for the most saves in the conference this season.

The Crusaders have four starters with winning records, led by senior Jake Reppert, whose five complete games and two shutouts are the most in the GNAC. Senior Colben McGuire is a strikeout machine, throwing 72 K’s this year. Colton Loomis leads the team with six wins, even though he’s only made seven starts, while Blake Mitchell has allowed fewer hits than any starter on the team.

The Crusaders aggressive bats and legs have produced 289 runs this season. The 99 doubles hit is a conference-high, as is the 19 triples. The Crusaders, in fact, lead the GNAC in extra-base hits with 150, nearly three per game.

Three players have been staples at the plate for NNU, starting with Josh Hatfield who leads the team with a .365 batting average and .429 on-base percentage. While Hatfield also leads the team in runs scored, Andrew Helmstadter tops the Crusaders in RBI’s and triples. His six triples actually tie for 17th nationally. With 18 doubles, Helmstadter is second in the conference behind the Crusaders Tyler Davis who has 20. Davis also leads the team in home runs with nine.

Projected Starting Lineups

Position Montana State Billings Western Oregon Northwest Nazarene
P Brady Muller Jesse Pratt Jake Reppert
C Conner Holbrook Brandon Oliver Andrew Helmstadter
1B Kevin Toon Nate Etheridge Tate Glasgow
2B Brody Miller Jake Whisler Tyler Davis
SS Corey Morris Marcus Hinkle Tucker Campbell
3B K.Durbin/C.Sternhagen Garret Harpole Kaleb DeHaas
LF Casey Merritt Matt Taylor Jesse Hilyard
CF Luke Reinschmidt Cody Poznanski Josh Hatfield
RF Myles Berkram Cody Sullivan Tim Jones
DH Trevor Nix C.Falck/A.Bloom K.Thomson/B.Circeo

 

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