Western Oregon To Host GNAC Baseball Tournament
AJ Burke tossed a four-hit shutout Saturday as Wolves finished off their regular season with two wins over Central Washington.
AJ Burke tossed a four-hit shutout Saturday as Wolves finished off their regular season with two wins over Central Washington.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

GNAC CHAMPIONSHIPS (May 9-10 at Monmouth):  Thursday - #3 MSU Billings (21-25-1) vs. #1 Western Oregon (31-19), 10 a.m.; #3 MSU Billings vs. #2 Central Washington (28-22), 1 p.m.; #2 Central Washington vs. #1 Western Oregon, 4 p.m.  Friday – Game 4 at noon; Game 5 at 3 p.m. (If all three teams finish round-robin play with a 1-1 record, #1 seed receives bye into Game 5).

MONMOUTH, Ore. - Western Oregon will be seeking its 12th straight Great Northwest Athletic Conference baseball title in the inaugural GNAC post-season tournament beginning Thursday at the WOU Baseball Field.

The top-seeded Wolves, who have won every previous conference title, earned the right to host the first tournament by winning the GNAC regular-season title.  WOU wrapped up the title this weekend winning three of four games against second-place Central Washington in Ellensburg.

The tournament begins with a three-game round-robin Thursday. In the opening game, third-seed Montana State Billings will play the Wolves at 10 a.m.  Game 2 will match MSUB and second-seed Central Washington at 1 p.m.  CWU will then play WOU at 4 p.m.

If all three qualifying teams end the round robin with 1-1 records, the Wolves, as the top-seed, will advance to Friday’s championship game against the winner of Game 4 which would match Central Washington and Montana State Billings.

If one of the three teams wins twice Thursday it will play the other surviving team and need just one win Friday to claim the title.

Central Washington comes into the tournament as the most productive offensive team batting .319.  Montana State Billings, which is hitting .303, however, has scored the most runs (297) and hit the most home runs (34). 

Western Oregon has the best team earned run average (4.44) and produced the most shutouts (6).  The Wolves also have three of the top-rated pitchers – A.J. Burke (7-3, 2.83), Spenser Watkins (7-6, 3.52) and Zach Nuno (6-2, 4.22).  WOU closer Kody Stone ranks third nationally in saves with a GNAC-record 13.

WOU shortstop Blake Miller is seeking his second straight conference batting title hitting .376, 11 points ahead of teammate Daniel McNabb.  Central Washington catcher Kyle Sani leads the conference in home runs (18) and RBIs (54).  His home run total is a GNAC and CWU school record.

MSUB’s Austin Rue brings a 27-game hitting streak into the tournament (the GNAC record is 32) and is hitting .357, while MSUB shortstop Colby Robison is batting .350 and has driven in 50 runs.  

AROUND THE GNAC: Western Oregon won its season series with both Central Washington and Montana State Billings, taking five of eight games.  MSU Billings, meanwhile, won five of eight games against Central Washington ...  Burke, who blanked CWU 9-0 on four hits Saturday, leads the GNAC in earned run average (2.83) ... The GNAC champion is not guaranteed a berth in the NCAA regionals.  With just five member schools, the conference does not receive an automatic berth.  A minimum of six schools in a conference is required before the NCAA grants a conference an automatic berth.