Comeback Crusaders: NNU Claims First Tournament Title
Northwest Nazarene won its first GNAC Championships title with a 9-8 victory over Western Oregon. Ryan Johnson was named the tournament MVP.
Northwest Nazarene won its first GNAC Championships title with a 9-8 victory over Western Oregon. Ryan Johnson was named the tournament MVP.

Friday, May 13, 2016

NAMPA, Idaho – With their second straight come-from-behind victory, Northwest Nazarene won its first GNAC Baseball Championships, defeating Western Oregon 9-8 in the championship game.

Tournament Most Valuable Player Ryan Johnson had the eventual game winning hit in the sixth inning, crushing a two-out, full-count, bases clearing double to left center field to put the Crusaders in front 7-6. The senior finished the game 4 for 5 with three runs batted in, two runs scored and a stolen base.

GNAC Player of the Year Tyler Davis followed Johnson up with a two-run home run to give the Crusaders a 9-6 lead and cap off their six-run sixth inning. The insurance dinger proved to be crucial, as Western Oregon answered with two runs of its own in the seventh inning.

Pitcher Jaramy Jacobs earned the save in relief. The left hander entered the ball game in the seventh inning with two men on and two outs, but recorded the final out of the inning to end the Western Oregon threat. He then finished the ball game with back-to-back perfect innings, sending the Crusaders to victory. Jacobs pitched in consecutive days after starting and throwing six innings for Northwest Nazarene in their game three victory over Montana State Billings on Thursday.

The Crusaders opened the ball game quickly with two runs in the first inning. Catcher Andrew Helmstadter hit a two-out double to score Johnson, followed by an RBI single from game three hero Adam Jones.

Western Oregon, however, continued to swing the bats well in the tournament, scoring one run in the second, third and fourth inning before adding three more in the fifth.

First baseman Trevor Podratz added another three hit performance, as did designated hitter Nathan Etheridge. Outfielder Forrest Garcia hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning to help pull the Wolves back to within one run.

Blake Mitchell picked up his fifth win of the season in relief of starting pitcher Ross Clevenger. Helmstadter added to the offensive cause with a solo home run that led off the sixth inning and started the momentum swing in the Crusaders’ favor.

Northwest Nazarene came back from a 3-2 deficit in the eighth inning in game three of the tournament. The Crusaders were on the brink of being knocked out in two different games, but persevered in clutch situations.

The Crusaders won their first GNAC tournament title in program history after claiming a share of the regular season title for the first time.

GNAC teams will await the NCAA Division II Baseball Championships Selection Show on Sun., May 15 at 7 p.m. Pacific time to see if their seasons will continue into regional play.