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Championships Preview Week In Monmouth And Billings
Andrew Helmstadter will become the fourth player in GNAC history to have played in 200 career games and could become the fifth player to reach 50 career doubles with just two more.
Andrew Helmstadter will become the fourth player in GNAC history to have played in 200 career games and could become the fifth player to reach 50 career doubles with just two more.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Following Western Oregon’s 8-3 win against Saint Martin’s on Tuesday, the GNAC Championships four-team field was set with only the seeding of the tournament left to be decided.

The four teams are Western Oregon, Central Washington, Northwest Nazarene and Montana State Billings who will all play each other in the final weekend of the season as a de facto preview of the Championships event to be played at Porter Park on the campus of Concordia University, beginning on May 10.

Each of the three teams that were in the tournament last year are back, and with the size of the tournament being expanded to four teams, Montana State Billings was the fourth team to earn a spot. The Yellowjackets will host Central Washington in a four-game series this week. Western Oregon, meanwhile, will seek to win its 14th GNAC regular season title in program history as it hosts its first series of the season. The Wolves will be hosting Northwest Nazarene, which is currently third in the GNAC standings. In Lacey, Washington, Saint Martin’s will wrap up its season, hosting Concordia.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Player
Connor Plaisance, Central Washington
OF • 5-11 • Sr. • Mill Creek, Wash.

Plaisance led Central Washington to a weekend split with Western Oregon by batting .500 with five hits, two doubles, two home runs, six walks and seven RBIs. He went 3 for 6 with two home runs and six RBIs in Saturday’s 13-11 series-opening victory, which included a three-run homer. In the series opener, he went 2 for 3 with a double and walk. His 15 doubles this year leads the GNAC.

Also Nominated:
Steven Sordahl (Saint Martin’s), Justin Wakem (Western Oregon), Ryan Myers (Montana State Billings), Spencer Pollock (Northwest Nazarene).

Pitcher
Brady Miller, Western Oregon
RHP • 6-2 • Jr. • Gilbert, Ariz.

Miller returned to form with a complete-game 5-1 victory in the second game with Saint Martin’s on Tuesday. He allowed the one run on six hits with three walks and eight strikeouts to improve to 4-2 on the season. It was his first complete game of the year and brought his ERA down to 3.83, which ranks fifth in the conference.

Also Nominated:
Benjamin Wadowski (Saint Martin’s), Cody Cooper (Montana State Billings), Brady Baker (Northwest Nazarene), James Brooks (Concordia).

SERIES PREVIEWS

CENTRAL WASHINGTON at MONTANA STATE BILLINGS
BILLINGS, Mont. -- The Wildcats enter the final weekend of the regular season with a shot to win their first GNAC regular season title in program history, needing a four-game sweep to have a chance at catching Western Oregon.

The Yellowjackets, meanwhile, are currently looking at being the No. 4 seed in the GNAC Championships, but could move up to as high as No. 2 if they can defend their home field.

When the series was in Ellensburg, Central Washington won three of four games, which was a part of the Wildcats’ stretch of 10 wins in 12 games in the middle of the season. The one win for MSUB came when the Yellowjacket offense exploded for 14 runs, while Bryon Baker threw a gem, going 7.1 innings with two runs allowed for his fourth win of the season.

Throughout the season, Central Washington has had a number of individuals step up in big ways, earning the squad eight individual weekly honors, including GNAC Player of the Week in each of the last three weeks. Jake Levin has been named both Pitcher of the Week and Player of the Week. He will miss the first game of the series, but he goes into Billings with a league-best 2.93 ERA, while also boasting a .325 batting average at the plate.

Montana State Billings owns the GNAC’s most productive offense, scoring 292 runs this year. The Yellowjackets lead in the runs category by a large margin despite having only the fourth-best batting average in the GNAC. They make up for the lack of hits with conference-leading numbers in walks (177), steals (58) and extra-base hits (139). Ryan Myers has been the leading source of the Yellowjackets’ power, blasting 10 home runs and eight doubles with for a .634 slugging percentage.


NORTHWEST NAZARENE at WESTERN OREGON
MONMOUTH, Ore. -- One win away from securing a 14th GNAC regular season title in program history, Western Oregon picked the right time to finally play its first home game of the season as the Wolves host Northwest Nazarene.

The Crusaders are a game ahead of Montana State Billings in the GNAC standings, needing a strong showing in Monmouth to remain one of the top three teams going into the conference tournament the following week.

The two teams split the first four games of the season series in Nampa, where NNU swept the first doubleheader and WOU swept the second. Jaramy Jacobs was one out away from throwing a three-run complete game to finish the first doubleheader, when Nick Bland came in to pick up his third save of the season. In the next game, Brady Miller returned the favor with six shutout innings to lead the Wolves to a 15-1 victory.

Western Oregon has been characterized this season by its discipline at the plate, recording a GNAC-best .299 batting average with only 176 strikeouts taken all season. The Wolves average just 1.1 strikeouts per walk offensively, which is a mark that leads the GNAC by a large margin. Brock Pradere has been the Wolves’ leader statistically in this way, striking out just seven times in 138 plate appearances this season. He has a .313 batting average with 30 of his 35 hits going for singles.

Northwest Nazarene has relied on a strong pitching rotation throughout the 2017 season with its four starters throwing a combined 224.2 innings this season. Ross Clevenger has thrown the bulk of those innings, tallying 72.2 while maintaining a 4.09 ERA and a 4-3 record in 11 starts.

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