Forecast Clear For All In Wide Open GNAC Race
Western Oregon outfielder Cody Sullivan was named the GNAC Player of the Week after hitting two home runs and leading the Wolves to four wins.
Western Oregon outfielder Cody Sullivan was named the GNAC Player of the Week after hitting two home runs and leading the Wolves to four wins.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

HOT BATS BACK ARMS TO FIRST SERIES SWEEP: It took until the final series of the first half, but the GNAC finally got its first series sweep of the year. In need of a momentum shift on their season, Western Oregon got that with a four-game sweep of Central Washington. In a competitive GNAC baseball season, the first series sweep had a huge impact on the standings. The Wolves entered the weekend in fifth place, but jumped three spots up to second with the four wins with a 9-8 conference record.

The reigning GNAC Champions have been led by their pitching staff in the early going this season, but were backed by an explosive offense this week in Ellensburg. The Wolves combined to score 30 runs, a four-game series high, which included two nine run outputs.

The Wolves combined to hit .264 for the series which included six home runs, a third of their 18 total on the season. First baseman Nathan Etheridge and outfielder Cody Sullivan each knocked two round trippers in the series. Sullivan was selected the GNAC Baseball Player of the Week after hitting .429 (6 for 14) with six runs batted in, five runs scored, the two home runs and a double. The Wolves Nick Snyder drove in a series high seven RBI while catcher Brandon Oliver led the team with seven hits and six runs scored.

While the Wolves hitting sparked the team’s four victories, the pitching staff remained consistent as ever. Western Oregon leads the GNAC in team earned run average at 2.94, over a run lower than the second best team. The Wolves’ four starters, specifically, have been dominant, giving Western Oregon a chance to win each game as all four picked up a victory. Brady Miller leads the staff and the GNAC with a 0.81 ERA in seven starts. He has a 6-0 record with 51 strikeouts. Garrett Alvarez, Darrien Moran and Gary Steindorf make up the other three quarters of the staff that owns a combined 13-5 record. Steindorf threw a complete game shutout to cap the series sweep in game four, while Alvarez allowed just one run in a complete game of his own.

ROLE REVERSALS CONTINUE ACROSS GNAC: In a series matching up two of the top offenses in the conference and the two pitching staffs with the highest ERAs, runs were expected to be aplenty between Montana State Billings and Saint Martin’s. Instead, the series featured strong pitching performances with just 18 combined runs between the two teams.

While the Yellowjackets have been led by a potent offense this season with a .267 average and 154 runs scored, it was a dominant pitching staff that led the team to a three out of four series win over Saint Martin’s last week. The Yellowjackets combined for a 2.03 ERA with just seven runs allowed in 31 innings, along with a 33:12 strikeouts to walk ratio.

Cody Cooper continues to impress as the season progresses, throwing a nine-inning complete game, striking out nine batters. He led the Yellowjackets to a 4-2 victory in game three. Going for the series win, the combination of Drew Christina and Adam Cox shutout Saint Martin’s in a tightly played contest. The pair dueled with Saint Martin’s starting pitcher Mickey Walker, who held the ‘Jackets powerful lineup to just one run in a complete game effort. Walker was named the GNAC Pitcher of the Week, striking out seven batters.

Cooper ranks fourth in the GNAC with a 2.47 ERA and is tied with Western Oregon’s Miller with a 6-0 record. Cooper also leads the conference with 57 strikeouts and has walked just 12.

Despite falling in three out of four games, Saint Martin’s put together its best pitching series of the season. The Saints held Montana State Billings to just 11 runs in four games, led by Walker’s excellent game four performance and the Saint’s 4-3 victory in game one.

TRADING DOUBLEHEADERS, CRUSADERS & CAVALIERS SPLIT: First place Northwest Nazarene was in danger of losing its top spot in the GNAC after getting swept by Concordia in the first doubleheader of the series on Friday. The Crusaders responded, however, returning the favor with a doubleheader sweep on Saturday.

The Cavaliers used two strong pitching performance on Friday to hold the highest scoring offense in the GNAC to just six runs. Concordia won 8-4 in game one and 3-2 in game two led by a complete game victory from Austin Hadley. The senior held the dangerous Crusaders’ lineup to two runs on four hits. He advanced to 4-0 on the season and is second in the GNAC with a 1.24 ERA. He outdueled NNU’s Colton Loomis, who threw a six-inning complete game, but ended on the short end of a one-run game. The doubleheader sweep was the first in GNAC play for Concordia.

In games three and four, the Northwest Nazarene bats awoke and swung for 17 runs in the two games. Second baseman Tyler Davis hit four doubles on the day with three RBI. Outfielder Ryan Johnson finished 7 for 17 with four runs scored and an RBI. The Crusaders won game three, 9-4, and game four, 8-6, with all eight runs coming in the fifth and sixth innings.

Northwest Nazarene remains in first play heading into the week, with a 13-7 GNAC record, 8-4 overall. The Cavaliers are in fifth place at 8-10 GNAC, 10-18 overall, but are 1.5 games behind second place Western Oregon as the conference remains very congested.

IN THE POLLS: For the first time this season, two GNAC teams are ranked in the top-10 of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association West Region Poll, with three teams receiving votes. After being ranked for the first time in the polls last week, Northwest Nazarene remains at No. 8 with 25 points. Western Oregon rejoins the top-10 for the first time since Feb. 22 after their four-game sweep of Central Washington. The Wolves are ranked No. 10 with six points. Also receiving votes for the first time since Feb. 29 is Montana State Billings, who accumulated three points in the poll.

SECOND HALF BEGINS: Central Washington travels to Montana State Billings to open the second of the GNAC season as each team has seen every other team once so far. Northwest Nazarene travels to Saint Martin’s, playing four games on Friday and Saturday. The lone Saturday, Sunday series will be played in Monmouth, Ore., where the Wolves hope to host their first games on the WOU Baseball Field this season.


Cody Sullivan
(Western Oregon, OF, 6-0, 190, Sr., Port Angeles, Wash. – Lower Columbia CC): Sullivan led Western Oregon in a series sweep of Central Washington by going 6 for 14 with a double, two home runs and 6 RBI, compiling a .529 on-base percentage. He had three of his RBI on a three-run opener in Saturday’s series opener and then went 3 for 4 with two RBI and a run in the series finale. Also Nominated: Brady Baker (Northwest Nazarene), Christian Heidiger (Concordia), Colter Sternhagen (Montana State Billings), Trevor Young (Saint Martin’s).

Mickey Walker
(Saint Martin’s, P, 5-10, 165, Fr., Keizer, Wash. – St. John Bosco): Walker limited Montana State Billings to one run on five hits and a walk with seven strikeouts as he threw the complete-game performance in the series finale with the Yellowjackets. Also Nominated: Austin Hadley (Concordia), Matt Hape (Montana State Billings), Ryan Nyborg (Northwest Nazarene), Gary Steindorf (Western Oregon).