Nothing Yet Decided In Final Week Of Regular Season
McKenzie Gaul has Central Washington in first place, leading the GNAC with a 2.14 ERA.
McKenzie Gaul has Central Washington in first place, leading the GNAC with a 2.14 ERA.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

WILD FINAL WEEK WITH EVERYTHING ON THE LINE: Entering the final weekend of the GNAC baseball regular season, not a single team has clinched a spot in next week’s GNAC Baseball Championships. The location of the tournament is also up for grabs as four teams remain with a chance at hosting rights by winning the regular season title. With just two games separating the top four team and four games still to be played, there are countless scenarios to determine who will be in the playoffs and who will host.

Entering the final week in first place in the standings, Central Washington is in control of the No. 1 spot. The Wildcats are 22-14 in GNAC play after capturing their first series sweep of the season over Northwest Nazarene last week. The four wins jumped the Wildcats from third to first place and set them up in prime position for postseason play. Central Washington will be tested in their final series of the regular season, on the road at Western Oregon.

The Wolves sit in second place with four games to go, hosting Central Washington on Friday and Saturday. The last time the two teams met, Western Oregon swept the Wildcats on the road in Ellensburg, Wash. The sweep was a part of the Wolves’ 14 game winning streak that catapulted them into first place and had them looking like the team to beat. However, Western Oregon fell to second place in the last two weeks after dropping seven of their last nine games. The Wolves fell in three of four games to Northwest Nazarene two weeks ago and then lost four out of five to Montana State Billings, who have jumped right back into the thick of the playoff race.

What seemed like a three team race just a week ago became a four team competition after the Yellowjackets took four out of five games from Western Oregon on the road. The wins were enough to jump Montana State Billings into a tie for third place with a 19-15 conference record. The Yellowjackets will be at home for the final weekend of the regular season, hosting Saint Martin’s on Thursday and Friday. Montana State Billings won three out of four games over Saint Martin’s this season. A sweep for the Yellowjackets would put them in excellent position for a post season berth and the possibility of winning the GNAC regular season title.

Tied with MSUB at 19-15, Northwest Nazarene is also looking for a shot at reaching the GNAC Championships. The Crusaders are coming off a disappointing series against Central Washington in which they were swept in four games, allowing an uncharacteristic number of runs. The Crusaders host Concordia this weekend on Thursday and Friday. The two teams split their four game series in Portland earlier this season. Like Montana State Billings, four wins would give the Crusaders a strong chance at reaching the postseason and potentially hosting.

Weather has been a constant factor this season, already completely washing out two games. If any more games are rained out, the standings could be completely shifted due to more unknown scenarios. The final conference standings will be based on conference winning percentage. All four teams still in the hunt can host, while a combination of any of the four teams can reach the postseason.

IN THE RANKINGS: With their four game sweep of Northwest Nazarene, Central Washington jumped up to No. 9 in the second to last National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association West Region Poll, receiving 13 points. Montana State Billings received four votes, followed by Western Oregon with two and Northwest Nazarene with one. In the first NCAA Division II Baseball West Region Poll on May 4, Northwest Nazarene ranked No. 6 while Montana State Billings ranked No. 7.

LEADING THE GNAC STATISTICS: With just a week left in the GNAC regular season, the conference leaders statistically have become more clear. Central Washington leads the GNAC in batting average at .314. Western Oregon paces all teams with 282 runs scored, 260 RBI and a 3.78 earned run average. Montana State Billings owns the most team strikeouts with 315, led by starting pitcher Cody Cooper’s 89. Central Washington’s McKenzie Gaul is first in ERA at 2.14 and Western Oregon’s Brady Miller owns the best record at 8-2. Northwest Nazarene’s Colton Loomis leads the GNAC with seven complete games, which includes two shutouts and one no-hitter. Concordia’s Austin Hadley has been one of the best all-around pitchers, leading the conference with a .208 batting average against. He is also second with a 2.44 ERA and six complete games. Central Washington’s CJ Gettman has been the top closer with eight saves.

With the bat, the Wildcats’ Ryan Atkinson leads the conference with a .387 batting average, .467 on base percentage, 46 runs and 65 hits. Northwest Nazarene’s Tyler Davis owns a considerable lead in home runs with 13 and is second with 37 RBI. Montana State Billings’ Luke Reinschmidt is first in runs batted in with 38. The Crusaders’ Ryan Johnson has 18 stolen bases to lead all players and is second in average (.382), runs scored (41) and hits (60).

GNAC BASEBALL All-ACADEMIC It is something special to be able to play on the same team as your brother. It is just as special to receive recognition together as two of the top performers in conference on the field and in the classroom.

Twin brothers Drew and Brett Christina have done just that. The twins, members of Montana State Billings’ baseball team, lead the list of 36 selections to the 2016 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Baseball All-Academic Team.

Drew Christina, a senior pitcher, was the only member of the team to draw a 4.00 cumulative grade point average as a chemistry major. Brett Christina, a senior infielder, was not far behind, compiling a 3.97 grade point average as a history major. To top the honors off, Drew Christina was recently recognized as the Montana State Billings’ Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

The duo from Walla Walla, Wash., are among four members of the squad to compile a grade point average of 3.80 or better. Joining them in that select group are Northwest Nazarene’s Tyler Marsh and Western Oregon’s Brady Miller. Marsh has a 3.84 grade point average as he works on his masters of business administration while Miller has a 3.83 grade point average as a business major.

This year’s All-Academic Team features six repeat selections. Earning a spot for the third consecutive year are Montana State Billings senior Lee Busto, Saint Martin’s senior Nick Mailhot, and Western Oregon senior Nathan Etheridge. Two-time selections include Montana State Billings junior Casey Merritt, Northwest Nazarene junior Andrew Helmstadter and Western Oregon senior Caleb Falck.

Conference newcomer Concordia led GNAC teams with nine selections to the All-Academic Team. Montana State Billings received eight selections.

To be included on the GNAC All-Academic Team, a student-athlete must be of at least sophomore standing, have competed at least one season at their current institution, hold a 3.20 cumulative grade point average or better and be a letter winner on their squad. Full Release

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