Northwest Nazarene Stays Alive With Big Third Inning
Ross Clevenger threw 7.2 innings with three runs allowed to pick up his sixth win of the season.
Ross Clevenger threw 7.2 innings with three runs allowed to pick up his sixth win of the season.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. – Northwest Nazarene scored all four of its runs in the third inning and Ross Clevenger protected that lead to give the Crusaders a 4-3 win against Montana State Billings on Thursday in an elimination game at the GNAC Baseball Championships at Port Park.

Clevenger threw 7.2 innings with five strikeouts, scattering five hits for three runs to pick up his sixth win of the season. Reigning GNAC Player of the Year Billy King got the key hit for the Crusaders with a three-RBI triple before scoring on a groundout to account for all four of the NNU runs.

With the win, Northwest Nazarene (24-28) advances to face the loser of Western Oregon and Central Washington at 7 p.m. PST. Montana State Billings’ season comes to an end with a 23-29 record after having reached the conference tournament for a fourth consecutive year.

Montana State Billings (23-29) got the first two runs of the game with a double down the left-field line by Jalen Garcia to plate Casey Merritt and Zach Robinson, who reached on a single and hit by pitch, respectively.

The Crusaders immediately got those runs back with a triple by Jarod Gonzales off the top of the right-center field fence. After two batters walked, the Yellowjackets had nowhere to put King, who got the green light from head coach Rocke Musgraves on a 3-0 count. King hit a sinking line drive into centerfield that got under the glove of Robinson as he dove.

The triple was all King was missing for the cycle in the first game as the Oregon State transfer picked up his second three-bagger of the year. King now has seven runs batted in for the tournament, tying the GNAC Championships record.

The Yellowjackets cut NNU’s lead in half after Casey Merritt got a leadoff triple and scored on a groundout. They put runners in scoring position with a chance to tie the game in each of the next two innings, but the Crusaders got out of the jam both times.

Nick Bland entered the game for the Crusaders in the eighth inning and forced a groundout to end the threat in that inning. Then after he opened the ninth inning with a strikeout, Brady Baker took over to strike out the final two batters and pick up his seventh save of the season.

Garcia drove in all three runs for the Yellowjackets to finish the year tied as the team-leader in RBIs with 38. Bryon Baker took just his second loss of the year, throwing seven innings with four strikeouts. He allowed four runs on four hits and four walks.