Baseball: Championships Begin Friday
Play Video Western Oregon ace Eric Huson will lead the No. 1 seed Wolves into the GNAC Baseball Championship beginning Friday in Monmouth.
Western Oregon ace Eric Huson will lead the No. 1 seed Wolves into the GNAC Baseball Championship beginning Friday in Monmouth.

Friday, May 9, 2014

GNAC Championships (May 9-10): Friday - #3 Saint Martin’s at #1 Western Oregon, 10 a.m.; #3 Saint Martin’s vs #2 Central Washington, 1 p.m.; #2 Central Washington at #1 Western Oregon, 4 p.m. Saturday – Championship Game, noon; Championship Game 2 (if necessary), 3 p.m.

MONMOUTH, Ore. – After winning the Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular season baseball title for the 13th consecutive season, Western Oregon will host the GNAC Championships for the second straight year.

All games of the 2014 GNAC Baseball Championships will be played at the Western Oregon baseball field, and will feature a live video stream with commentary and live statistics.

The Wolves (29-19, 22-10 GNAC) enter the tournament as the No. 1 seed, having won nine of their final 12 conference games.

After finishing second in the GNAC regular season race, Central Washington (28-18, 17-14) will look to avenge last season’s doubleheader loss to Western Oregon in the GNAC Championships. The Wildcats and the Wolves split their regular season series at four games apiece, each time with the home team winning a four-game series 3-1.

The games between CWU and WOU this season have all been close, with six of the eight being determined by two runs or less and the widest margin of victory being five runs in Western Oregon’s 12-7 win over CWU on April 6 in Ellensburg.

Earning the third and final seed in dramatic fashion was Saint Martin’s, which was included in the tournament by virtue of Montana State Billings’ doubleheader victory over Northwest Nazarene on the final day of the season.

Holding a conference record of just 6-14 on April 18, the Saints embarked on a remarkable tear, winning eight of their final 11 GNAC games to force their way into the tournament. Against its final three conference opponents, SMU took 3 of 4 from MSUB, split with Western Oregon and won its final three games all against Central Washington.

The Saints (18-28, 14-17) enter the tournament not only as the hottest team with five straight victories, but with those wins coming against the two opponents it will face this weekend. Overall on the season, SMU went 4-3 against Central Washington and 3-5 against Western Oregon.

Game 1: #3 Saint Martin’s at #1 Western Oregon | Fri., May 9| 10 a.m.

While the Wolves hold the season edge at 5-3, the Saints have won the last two against the Wolves and three of the last five games played between the teams overall.

Western Oregon showed a stretch of dominance against Saint Martin’s in the first series of the season, winning the first three games 4-0, 4-0, and 5-0. Ovearll, WOU has outscored SMU 37-30, and is batting .307 against Saint pitching.

At the plate, Daniel McNabb has had the most success against the Saints, batting 12-for-29 with two doubles, a triple and six runs scored in seven games. McNabb has not struck out against SMU this season, and has posted an on-base percentage of .452 against the Saints.

Tim Rausch has twice homered against the Saints in 2014, and Parker Miles is hitting .375 (12-for-32) with four doubles and a home run against the Wolves’ Game 1 opponent.

Matt Minnich and Spenser Watkins have each been dominant against SMU this season, combining for 33 strikeouts in 23 innings pitched against the Saints. In two starts against SMU, Minnich has allowed one run and struck out 17 batters, allowing just 11 base runners and one extra base hit – a double – in 11 innings pitched.

Saint first baseman Spencer Dodd has been the leading batter against WOU this season, holding a line of 9-for-30 with three doubles and four RBI against the Wolves. Chandler Tracy and Luke Besel have each homered twice against WOU this season, helping the Saints out homer the Wolves 5-3 on the season.

The Saints have fond memories of their most recent trip to Monmouth, winning both ends of a doubleheader by two runs in extra inning fashion. Travis Shaw came through with a two-run single in the top of the 11th in an 11-9 Game 1 win on April 27, and Chris Womac and Dodd each had RBI in the top of the eighth inning to lead to a 5-3 win.

From the mound, Josh Moss has tossed two complete games against WOU this season, striking out eight and allowing just four earned runs in 13 innings of work.

Game 2: #3 Saint Martin’s vs #2 Central Washington | Fri., May 9 | 1 p.m.
Considering the final game of the teams’ regular season series was cancelled, leaving Saint Martin’s with a 3-0 series victory, Central Washington will enter Friday’s playoff game with a sense of unfinished business.

Saint Martin’s won the first game of the season between the teams 10-7 on March 29, but the Wildcats responded by allowing just four runs over the next three games to take the first series in Ellensburg 3-1. SMU took back the momentum last weekend in Lacey, coming through in a trio of must-win games to solidify a playoff berth.

Overall, Saint Martin’s has outscored Central Washington 39-30 in the seven games played, and is batting .321 compared with CWU’s average of .289.

GNAC Freshman of the Year Zack Larsen has been SMU’s top hitter against the Wildcats, batting .423 (11-for-26) with five runs scored and an on-base percentage of .464. Shaw has doubled, tripled, and homered against CWU this season, and leads his team in RBI against the Wildcats with eight.

The Saints have also played excellent defense against the Wildcats, committing just six errors in 242 chances.

For CWU, Eric Tinnell and Kasey Bielec have each logged nine hits, and the duo has combined to drive in seven runs against SMU. Tinnell, the GNAC leader in stolen bases this season, is 3-for-4 on the base paths against the Saints this season.

The prime matchup to focus on in this series will be on the mound, as GNAC Pitcher of the Year Brandon Williams of CWU and Moss of SMU have squared off against one another twice this season. Williams emerged victorious the first time the juniors met in Ellensburg, as he twirled a magnificent 9-strikeout, two-hit shutout in a 3-0 win over the Saints.

Moss was similarly impressive the last time the two met in Lacey last weekend, allowing one run and zero walks in a 7-inning complete game to help SMU to a 3-1 victory. Both pitchers threw complete games in each of the meetings, with Williams holding a 1.38 ERA against the Saints and Moss a 2.08 mark against CWU.

CWU starter Stuart Fewel has also had success against SMU this season, allowing just two earned runs in 14 1/3 innings pitched including a complete game in a 5-1 CWU win on March 29. 

Game 3: #2 Central Washington at #1 Western Oregon | Fri. May 9 | 4 p.m.

In what has developed as the prime rivalry in GNAC baseball over the past several years, Central Washington and Western Oregon will look to settle a current 4-4 tie in the season series.

The Wolves jumped to an early advantage by taking 3 of 4 from the Wildcats in Monmouth on Feb. 28 – March 1, but CWU responded by winning its home series against WOU 3-1 on May 5-6.

Western Oregon has outscored Central Washington 47-42 this season, and is batting .305 against Wildcat pitching. The Wildcats have hit five home runs and allowed just two in the season series, and have shown more patience at the plate in drawing 41 walks compared to the Wolves’ 24.

Miles, Matt Taylor and Chris Bradshaw have each logged more than 10 hits against the Wildcats this season, with Miles’ .452 batting average (14-for-31) pacing the squad. Nathan Etheridge has driven in the most runs against CWU with seven, thanks to three doubles and a home run in 29 at bats.

In two starts against CWU this season, Matt Minnich has not allowed an earned run in 10 innings, surrendering three hits and just nine base runners along the way. Huson has also been solid against CWU, striking out nine batters and allowing four earned runs in 14 2/3 innings. 

For CWU, Kasey Bielec is the lone player to collect 10 hits, batting .385 (10-for-26) against WOU this season. Bielec has doubled three times and homered, and is tied with Scott Stone for the team high in RBI against the Wolves with seven. Stone has homered twice against WOU pitching, most recently helping CWU collect an 11-9 win on April 5.

On the mound, WOU has not found an answer for CWU left hander Kurtis Pitcher, who has struck out 10 batters and allowed just one earned run in 11 innings pitched against the Wolves. Despite the 0.82 ERA, Pitcher has suffered a loss and a no decision in his two excellent starts against the Wolves.

Out of the bullpen, GNAC Newcomer of the Year Cory Welch has been dominant in 6 2/3 against WOU with 11 strikeouts and just one earned run allowed. Three of Welch’s GNAC-high 10 saves came against the Wolves, as he has allowed just six base runners and one double in his work against CWU’s rival. 

#1 Western Oregon - Wolves (29-19, 22-10 GNAC – 1st)
Head Coach: Kellen Walker, 2nd season (63-39)

All-Conference Players
1st Team – Eric Huson, RHP; Garret Harpole, 3B; Daniel McNabb, RF; Matt Taylor, LF
2nd Team – Spenser Watkins, RHP; Matt Minnich, LHP; Nathan Etheridge, 1B; Parker Miles, 2B; Chris Bradshaw, CF
Honorable Mention – Will Chavarria, C; Austin Hamilton, SS.

Depth Chart
Pos. (Games Played)
C – Will Chavarria (23); Michael Sherwin (12)
1B – Nathan Etheridge (43)
2B – Parker Miles (36); Jacob Whisler (12)
3B – Garret Harpole (39)
SS – Austin Hamilton (32)
LF – Matt Taylor (42)
CF – Chris Bradshaw (48)
RF – Daniel McNabb (39)
DH – Tim Rausch (27)
SP – Eric Huson (12); Spenser Watkins (12); Matt Minnich (10)
RP – Kody Stone (8 SV); Jesse Pratt (2 SV)

#2 Central Washington - Wildcats (28-18, 17-14 GNAC – 2nd)
Head Coach: Desi Storey, 23rd season (499-572-1)

All-Conference Players
Pitcher of the Year – Brandon Williams, RHP
Newcomer of the Year – Cory Welch, RHP/SS
1st Team – Brandon Williams, RHP; Cory Welch, RHP; Kasey Bielec, INF; Ethan Sterkel, RF
2nd Team – Zach Reay, C; Cory Welch, SS; Eric Tinnell, INF
Honorable Mention – Stuart Fewel, RHP; Skye Adams, LHP; Willie Davies, RHP; Josh Potter,1B; Scott Stone, LF

Depth Chart
Pos. (Games Played)
C – Jesse White (20); Zach Reay (18)
1B – Josh Potter (34)
2B – Eric Tinnell (32)
3B – Kasey Bielec (31); Justen Weigel (13)
SS – Cory Welch (31)
LF – Kyle Baumgartner (13)
CF – Jaykob Sells (21); Cory Welch (10)
RF – Ethan Sterkel (39)
DH – Ben Fitzhugh (12); Jake Levin (10); Scott Stone (10)
SP – Brandon Williams (12); Stuart Fewel (10); Skye Adams (9); Kurtis Pitcher (9)
RP -  Cory Welch (10 SV)

#3 Saint Martin’s (18-28, 14-17 GNAC – 3rd)
Head Coach: Ken Garland, 6th season (109-183)

All-Conference Players
Freshman of the Year – Zack Larsen, SS
1st Team – Zach Carter, RHP; Chandler Tracy, C; Zack Larsen, SS; Travis Shaw, DH
2nd Team – Alex Bielaski, LF
Honorable Mention – Josh Moss, LHP; Tony LaDue, RHP; Spencer Dodd, 1B

Depth Chart
Pos. (Games Played)
C – Chandler Tracy (31); Zach Raczok (15)
1B – Spencer Dodd (39)
2B – Kaelen Hirashiki (30); Jake Huskey (16)
3B – Blake Lord (24); Travis Shaw (21)
SS – Zack Larsen (45)
LF – Alex Bielaski (31); Luke Besel (13)
CF – Chris Womac (29); Joseph Balfour (12)
RF – Carl Svanevik (29)
DH – Travis Shaw (21)
SP – Josh Moss (12); Zach Carter (11); Josh Sontag (10)
RP – Joseph Balfour (4 SV); Tony LaDue (1 SV)

2014 Red Lion Players of the Week