Wolves Take Game 1 of GNAC Championships
Wolves first baseman Nathan Etheridge hit a solo home run in the fourth inning, helping the Wolves to the 4-2 Game 1 victory.
Wolves first baseman Nathan Etheridge hit a solo home run in the fourth inning, helping the Wolves to the 4-2 Game 1 victory.

Friday, May 9, 2014

MONMOUTH, Ore. – Nathan Etheridge broke a 2-2 tie with a solo home run in the fourth inning, and Western Oregon preserved the lead to defeat Saint Martin’s 4-2 in Game 1 of the 2014 GNAC Baseball Championships at the Western Oregon baseball field Friday morning.

WOU starter Spenser Watkins threw 7 1/3 innings, allowing no earned runs on three hits with seven strikeouts to improve to 7-3 on the season. Jesse Pratt earned his third save of the season, with a strikeout in his one inning.

For the Saints (18-29), right hander Zach Carter allowed four runs on four hits with a strikeout and six walks over his eight innings of work.

Western Oregon (30-19) took advantage of four walks in the first inning, and Tim Rausch plated two runs on a double.

Watkins was efficient early on not allowing a base hit until Travis Shaw hit a line drive into center field in the top of the third inning.

The single led to a sacrifice bunt by Spencer Dodd to put runners in scoring position for Zack Larsen. The freshman hit a sharp ground ball to short, driving in Chris Womac and reaching first on a throwing error by the Wolves’ shortstop.

Chandler Tracy followed with a deep sacrifice fly to center field, tying the game at 2-2.

WOU threatened in the bottom of the frame, as Hamilton reached on a leadoff infield single and Rausch lifted a deep fly ball into left field. Alex Bielaski ranged over and made the catch in foul territory against the wall.

Etheridge led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a deep home run to left center field, giving the Wolves a 3-2 lead with the solo blast.

Watkins followed with a shutdown inning, retiring the Saints in order on just 10 pitches in the top of the fifth inning.

After a rain delay following the top of the fifth inning, Carter responded by retiring the next six WOU batters. The right hander completed the sixth inning having thrown just 80 pitches. Larsen made an outstanding backhanded play to contibute to Carter's string of retired batters, snagging a sharp ground ball by Etheridge and throwing him out from deep in the hole in the sixth.

Kaelen Hirashiki led off the top of the seventh inning with a walk, and Zach Raczok moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt. Watkins left the tying runner on second with a pop up and a ground ball handled by Garret Harpole at third base to end the inning.

The Wolves manufactured an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh inning, as Will Chavarria drew a leadoff walk and was advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jacob Whisler. WOU leadoff hitter Chris Bradshaw laced a sharp ground ball into center field, giving the Wolves a 4-2 advantage.

Dodd led off the eighth inning with a base hit through the left side, and Tracy followed with a line drive single to left to put two runners on for the Saints. Tracy’s hit ended the day for Watkins, as Chase Tokunaga inherited the baserunners. The senior left hander struck out the next two batters, preserving the Wolves’ lead heading into the bottom of the eighth.

Hirashiki led off the ninth with a walk, and reached second on a throwing error by closer Jesse Pratt. After a strikeout by Womac, Pratt coaxed a game-ending double play off the bat of Lord as the Wolves held on for the narrow 4-2 victory.