Wildcats Win Seesaw Opener To GNAC Championships
Play Video Jake Levin became the fourth player in GNAC Baseball Championships history to record a complete game. <i>Photo by Jaime Valdez</i>
Jake Levin became the fourth player in GNAC Baseball Championships history to record a complete game. Photo by Jaime Valdez

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. – The opener of the 2017 GNAC Baseball Championships featured four lead changes with No. 2 seed Central Washington taking the lead for good with two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning for a 7-6 win against No. 3 Northwest Nazarene on Wednesday at Porter Park.

With the win, Central Washington (30-21) advances to the winners bracket to play the winner of Montana State Billings and Western Oregon at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday. Northwest Nazarene (23-28) will play the loser of that game at noon.

The Wildcats trailed by a run going into the eighth inning, but got a leadoff solo home run by shortstop Chris Dalto to knot the game at 6-6. Ty Deckwa then got his first hit of the day with a double down the right-field line and eventually scored the game-winning run on an RBI-fielder’s choice hit by Kyle Stahl.

Starting pitcher Jake Levin returned to the mound for the final frame and gave up two singles to start the inning. Levin got the first out of the inning on a shallow pop up. Both baserunners advanced on a wild pitch, allowing CWU to intentionally walk Billy King. The decision paid off as Levin struck out a second consecutive batter looking to secure the win.

Levin became the fourth pitcher in GNAC Championships history to throw a complete game, picking up his GNAC-leading eighth win of the year. He struck out eight batters and allowed six runs, five earned, on 11 hits and two walks. He tallied 122 pitches, and in the process, assured that the entire Wildcat bullpen would be available for Thursday’s game.

Dalto had two RBIs in the game after driving in the first run with a bunt single that allowed Levin to score in the second inning. The Wildcats added two more for a 3-0 lead on a single by Conor Plaisance up the middle and a sacrifice fly by James Smith III.

The GNAC Player of the Year, King, went 3-for-4 in his GNAC Championships debut with four RBIs and two runs. He got the first of those RBIs in the top of the fourth inning on a single through the right side. Then in the top of the sixth inning he hit a double down the left-field line to send Casey Sheehan across the plate for a second time. An Andrew Helmstadter single gave the Crusaders their first lead as King scored on the base knock.

Smith quickly erased that lead, starting the bottom half of the inning with a solo shot to leftfield. Plaisance then picked up his second RBI of the game with a single into right-center field for a 6-5 lead.

King finished the game a triple away from the cycle, belting his GNAC-leading 15th home run of the year in the top of the eighth inning to help NNU reclaim the lead on the two-run shot. The Wildcats, however, again erased a Crusader lead in the bottom half of the frame with the Dalto home run.

Central Washington is now the first GNAC team to reach 30 wins this season. Northwest Nazarene will have to win four games over the next two days in order to defend their GNAC Championships title. King tied the GNAC Championships record for total bases in a single game with seven.