GNACSports.com
Hope Springs Eternal Throughout GNAC Baseball
A hot stretch for Montana State Billings has the Yellowjackets sitting in second place in the GNAC standings.
A hot stretch for Montana State Billings has the Yellowjackets sitting in second place in the GNAC standings.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

HISTORY MADE: Some history was made both at the plate and on the mound throughout the GNAC last week.

In what looked to be a football score at first glance, Western Oregon blew out Central Washington for a 32-14 victory on Monday in Bellevue. The win set a GNAC record for runs scored, beating the previous mark of 31 set by Central Washington in 2010.

On the bump, Montana State Billings freshman Brooks Zimmer became just the fourth pitcher in GNAC history to tally three saves in a four-game series. Zimmer’s efforts helped lead the Yellowjackets to a series win over the Wildcats in Wyoming.  

REPRESENTATION IN REGIONAL RANKINGS: In the fifth NCBWA West Region Rankings of the season, Western Oregon is ranked at No. 5. The Wolves are off to an 11-3 start in 2019, most recently sweeping a series against Concordia.

UC San Diego tops the region as the month of March rolls on, earning each of the possible eight first-place votes. The Tritons are 17-4 so far this season.

IT’S AUTOMATIC: For the first time in conference history, the GNAC will receive an automatic bid into the NCAA Division II Baseball Tournament in 2019. The winner of the GNAC Championships, held May 8-10 in Portland, will receive that automatic berth. Each of the top four teams in the league standings at the culmination of the regular season will qualify for the GNAC Championships.

The defending GNAC Championships title-holders, Western Oregon, have won the tournament four times in the event’s history. Northwest Nazarene and Central Washington each enter 2019 with one tournament title.

THIS WEEK'S GNAC PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Player

Justin Wakem, Western Oregon
C • 5-8 • Sr. • Beaverton, Ore.

Wakem paced the Wolves in a 5-1 week with a .526 batting average, going 10 for 19 with nine RBI and 10 runs. Wakem led WOU in its record-breaking 32-14 win over Central Washington on Monday by going 5 for 6 with five runs, five RBI, a double and a home run. He opened the four-game series sweep of Concordia by going 2 for 3 in Friday’s opener with an RBI double. He closed out the series with hits in each of Sunday’s games.

Also Nominated: Jake Forrester (Central Washington), Andrew Schleusner (Montana State Billings), Austin Feist (Saint Martin’s).

Pitcher
Brooks Zimmer, Montana State Billings
RHP • 6-6 • Fr. • Billings, Mont.

Zimmer picked up three saves as the Yellowjackets secured a critical series win over Central Washington. He allowed just one hit and struck out four in two innings to win Saturday’s second game, 10-8. Zimmer then earned saves in both of Sunday’s games, allowing a walk and striking out one in the ninth of the 5-3 victory in the opener and allowed two walks and struck out two in the 2-1 second game win.

Also Nominated: Mitch Lesmeister (Central Washington), Aaron Shoup (Saint Martin’s), Austin Crowson (Western Oregon).

AROUND THE GNAC
CENTRAL WASHINGTON
• Central Washington returned to action for four games last week, meeting Montana State Billings in Cowley, Wyoming. The team took the first contest of the series and was competitive in the final three, dropping the trio of games by a combined five runs.

• The club was led at the plate by sophomore Michael Peter, who led the team with six RBIs while tallying a .267 average. Sophomore Mitch Lesmeister had a huge weekend as well, hitting at a .308 clip while notching his second home run of the season.  

• Lesmeister’s .294 batting average leads the Wildcats as conference play continues. Outfielder Justin Hampson is following closely behind at a clip of .286.

• As a team, CWU is hitting .246 this season, which ranks third in the conference through six weeks of play. The team’s ability to pick up big hits in the clutch has shown early, slotting it second in the GNAC in batting average with an RBI opportunity (.292).

• The Wildcats will return to the field this weekend for their second road trip of league play. It will meet Concordia in a four-game series in Portland, with game one scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. on Saturday.

CONCORDIA
• The Cavaliers were in Monmouth last week for a series against first-place Western Oregon. The team was unable to pick up a victory against the league-leading Wolves.

• Concordia was led by outfielder Payton Presley, who hit .273 while notching a .385 on base percentage against WOU. The junior ranks third on the team in both RBIs (9) and runs (7) through 21 games.

• The club’s pitching staff is slotted fifth in the conference with a 6.59 ERA. Offensively, the team is second in the GNAC in triples at five seven weeks of play.

• The Cavaliers will be in action for four contests this weekend. They will return to the diamond on Saturday afternoon in Portland, opening up a four-game set with Central Washington.

MONTANA STATE BILLINGS
• Montana State Billings met Central Washington in Cowley, Wyoming. last weekend in a four game series that was filled with drama. The club left with three consecutive victories, sweeping Sunday’s doubleheader after recording a 10-8 win on Saturday.

• The team was led offensively by catcher Andrew Schleusner, who hit at a .429 average while tallying six RBIs over the series. The junior’s monster weekend included a 2 for 3 showing in Saturday’s clutch 10-8 victory, a contest in which Schleusner drove in three runs.

• On the mound, freshman Brooks Zimmer shined for the Yellowjackets. The right-hander was named the GNAC and NCBWA West Region Pitcher of the Week after becoming just the fourth pitcher in conference history to notch three saves in a four-game series.   

• Montana State Billings is hitting .283 on the 2019 campaign. That clip has the team slotted second in the conference.

• No team in the GNAC has hit more home runs than MSUB. The team has 27 homers so far this season, which is 17 more than the next closest teams (Western Oregon).  

• The Yellowjackets will return to the field this week, hitting the road once again on Saturday and Sunday to play Saint Martin’s in Lacey.

NORTHWEST NAZARENE
• The Nighthawks were back in action last week, traveling to Lacey for a four-game set at Saint Martin’s. The club looked dominant in Friday’s 8-0 victory but ended up heading home with just one win on the weekend.

• Northwest Nazarene was led by South Dakota State transfer Greg Casper. Casper paced NNU with a .400 average at the plate while driving in three runs and scoring one himself.

• On the mound, senior Cooper Webster led his team while recording the complete-game shutout victory in Friday’s win. He went all seven innings, striking out eight while allowing just three hits in the 8-0 victory.

• Northwest Nazarene ranks second in the league with a 4.36 Earned Run Average. Freshman Ben Johnson’s 3.54 ERA has him slotted fifth in the GNAC individually.

• The Nighthawks are back in action this weekend, returning home for a four-game set against first-place Western Oregon. The series will get underway on Friday at 3 p.m. in Nampa.

SAINT MARTIN’S
• Saint Martin’s got back on track last week with four games against Northwest Nazarene. The Saints took the opener with a 3-1 victory before sweeping Saturday’s doubleheader to take the series.

• Freshman Aaron Renaud led the team offensively against the Nighthawks. The first baseman hit at a .417 average with two RBIs and two runs to pace SMU.

• On the mound, senior Aaron Shoup has led the Saints in 2019. The southpaw tops SMU with a 3.23 ERA in five appearances, posting two victories and 28 strikeouts.

• As a team, leads the league in ERA at 4.12. The club’s 173 strikeouts also tops the GNAC.

• The Saints will return to action this week against Montana State Billings for their fourth series of league play. The four-game set will begin on Saturday at 12 p.m. in Lacey.

WESTERN OREGON
• Western Oregon returned home last weekend and dominated in its series against visiting Concordia. The Wolves outscored the Cavaliers 38-3 over the four games and are now alone in first place at the top of the GNAC standings.

• The club notched its first two shutouts of the season, topping CU 11-0 on Saturday and 8-0 in the series finale on Sunday. Left-handers Austin Crowson and Gabe Benavides each went the distance, scattering four hits a piece without allowing a run.  

• Senior Justin Wakem led WOU offensively on the week, tallying nine RBI while hitting at a .526 clip across a busy six-game week that included two contests against Central Washington. Wakem’s exploits earned him the nod as GNAC Player of the Week.

• Western Oregon is hitting .338 as a team, a mark that currently leads the conference. Its .429 on-base percentage also tops the GNAC.

• On the mound, the Wolves staff is averaging 11.93 strikeouts per nine innings. That mark leads the conference as the second month of the season continues.

• The club will return to the field on Friday to open up a four-game series at Northwest Nazarene. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. in Nampa.

Copyright ©2021 Great Northwest Athletic Conference. All Rights Reserved. GNACSports.com