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Rest Of The Conference Opens Play This Weekend
Western Oregon split their season opening series at Azusa Pacific and picked up a win at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
Western Oregon split their season opening series at Azusa Pacific and picked up a win at Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Friday, February 12, 2016

WOLVES GRAB 3 OF 5 IN CALIFORNIA: Western Oregon opened their season in California, playing a four game series at Azusa Pacific and a single game at Cal State Dominguez Hills. The Wolves were voted No. 7 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association West Region Preseason Poll, and were met with a tough test in No. 5 Azusa Pacific.

The Wolves settled for a series split against the Cougars after winning the first two games. Last season’s GNAC Freshman of the Year, Brady Miller, made the start for Western Oregon in its season opener. He picked up the win, holding Azusa Pacific to one run in five innings. He allowed four hits, five walks and struck out seven batters. Joey Crunkilton hit the team’s first home run of the season, a two-run shot, in the third inning. The Wolves went on to win 3-1.

In game two of the series, the offense awoke for six runs in the first two innings to give the pitching staff all the run support it would need in the 8-4 victory. Third baseman Kyle Vanderkin finished 2 for 4 with one run, two runs batted in and a triple. First baseman Nathan Etheridge drove in two runs. Pitcher Garrett Alvarez picked up the win, going five innings with three runs allowed and five strikeouts.

The Wolves suffered their first defeat of the season in game three of the series at Azusa Pacific, falling 2-1. Pitcher Darrien Moran took the loss in a complete game effort, throwing six innings with two runs allowed and seven strikeouts. The offense finished just 2 for 21 combined, scoring its lone run on a Vanderkin solo home run.

Western Oregon took another one run loss in the final game of the series, falling 7-6 to the Cougars. The Wolves held a 5-3 lead through five innings, but allowed four runs through the sixth and eighth innings. Pitcher Gary Steindorf allowed three unearned runs in five innings, receiving a no decision after the start. Outfielder Cody Sullivan finished 2 for 3 with one run scored, two RBI and a double. Second baseman Marcus Madden was also 2 for 3 with two RBI and Etheridge finished 3 for 4.

The team played one more game for the week, visiting Cal State Dominguez Hills. The Wolves led 6-1 through seven and a half innings, but allowed five runs to the Toros in the bottom half of the eighth to tie game up. In the ninth inning, however, Etheridge drove in the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly. He finished 2 for 3 with two RBI and was named the GNAC Player of the Week for his efforts. Crunkilton was 3 for 4 on the afternoon, driving in two runs with one scored. Trey Smith started the ball game, but received a no decision after limiting CSUDH to one run in five innings. Jacob Fricke picked up the win in relief, throwing one and third scoreless innings.

CRUSADERS SPLIT ON OPENING WEEKEND: Northwest Nazarene was the only other team to compete on the opening weekend of the season, playing two contests in Lewiston, Idaho against Corban and Lewis-Clark State. The Crusaders were picked to finish fourth place in the GNAC this season, after placing third last year and runners-up at the GNAC Championships.

The Crusaders opened the year on Saturday with an 8-4 victory over Corban. In the win, outfielder Jesse Hilyard drove in three runs on 2 for 5 hitting. He had two doubles and a run scored. Pitcher Colton Loomis threw four and two thirds innings in relief, picking up the win after shutting down Corban to two hits and no runs. Loomis was named the GNAC Pitcher of the Week with the relief performance.

In their second game of the day, the Crusaders fell to Lewis-Clark State 5-3, getting outscored 3-0 in the final three innings. Catcher Andrew Helmstadter was 2 for 3 with two RBI and a triple. Pitcher Jaramy Jacobs took the loss, allowing four runs, two earned, in six innings with six strikeouts.

The Crusaders will attend the Dixie State Classic this week, beginning on Friday. They will play both Holy Names and Dixie State twice in St. George, Utah.

WILDCATS COME UP SHORT IN SEASON OPENER: After falling behind 5-0 early at Lewis-Clark State, Central Washington’s late rally came up short, falling 6-4. Designated hitter Jake Levin drove home two runs in the loss on Wednesday, finishing 1 for 3 at the plate with a double and run scored. The Wildcats used eight different pitchers in the game, with no player throwing more than two innings.

Central Washington is the lone team to be out of action this week. They return to the diamond on Sat., Feb. 20 at Corban in Salem, Ore for a pair of games.

REST OF THE PACK: Saint Martin’s, Concordia and Montana State Billings begin their seasons this week.  The Saints will host Whitman for two games on Saturday, beginning at 12 p.m. Saint Martin’s was picked to finish sixth in the GNAC in the preseason poll. Concordia, the GNAC newcomers, travel to Lewiston, Idaho to take on Lewis-Clark State for a three game series, beginning on Friday. The reigning GNAC regular season champion Yellowjackets will join Northwest Nazarene in St. George, Utah for the Dixie State Classic. Montana State Billings was picked to finish second in the conference.

GNAC BASEBALL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

PLAYER:
Nathan Etheridge, Western Oregon
1B • 6-5 • 225 • Senior • Grants Pass, Ore.

Etheridge opened the 2016 season by hitting .429 in five games with six hits five RBI. He went 3 for 4 in Saturday’s series finale at Azusa Pacific and had the game-winning RBI on a sacrifice fly in the Wolves’ 7-6 win at Cal State Dominguez Hills on Sunday. Also nominated: Andrew Helmstadter (Northwest Nazarene).

PITCHER
Colton Loomis, Northwest Nazarene
RHP • 6-0 • 160 • Senior • Cashmere, Wash

Loomis earned the win in 4 2/3 innings of relief in the Crusaders’ 8-4 win over Corban. He allowed two hits and one walk while striking out two.

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