NNU's Title Run Falls Short In Loss To Defending Champs
Northwest Nazarene claimed its second GNAC title in 2021 and became the conference's first team to win a game at the NCAA Championships. Photo by Loren Orr.
Northwest Nazarene claimed its second GNAC title in 2021 and became the conference's first team to win a game at the NCAA Championships. Photo by Loren Orr.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

CARY, N.C. – Northwest Nazarene’s storybook season didn’t have the fairytale ending that the Nighthawks were hoping for.

The No. 8-seeded Nighthawks fell 5-2 to No. 5-seeded and two-time defending national champion Tampa in the NCAA Championships at the USA National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina.

The Nighthawks’ first run of the game came in the second inning. Junior designated hitter Alex Salsman drew a two-out walk to spark a rally. Freshman shortstop Walker Moore followed with a single to right field and an error by Tampa sophomore right fielder E.J. Cumbo allowed Salsman to come around and score.

Tampa didn’t get on the board until the sixth. The Spartans evened the score at 1-1 on a pinch-hit single by senior Sam Freitas that resulted in a throwing error by NNU junior reliever Max Holtzclaw to score freshman second baseman J.D. Urso from second.

The Spartans kept their momentum going as they tacked on three more runs in the seventh. A pair of RBI doubles by senior designated hitter Luke Glancy and junior first baseman Dan Sullivan and a sacrifice fly by Urso blew the game open.

The Nighthawks responded with a run in the eighth to cut the Spartans’ lead to two. Moore tripled to left-center and then junior center fielder Ryan Dearing followed with an RBI single up the middle. Moore went 2 for 3 in the game with the run scored while freshman right fielder Grant Kerry went 2 for 4.

Tampa added an insurance run in the ninth before closing the door on the Nighthawks in the bottom of the inning to advance to Thursday’s rematch with top-seeded Central Missouri. The Spartans will need to beat the Mules twice to have a chance to defend their title.

Junior Nik Constantakos earned the win for the Spartans after allowing one unearned run on two hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in six innings of work. Of his 89 pitches, 62 were for strikes.

Sophomore starter Spencer Schwehr went 5.2 innings in the no-decision, allowing one earned run on three hits with three walks and three punchouts. Holtzclaw took the loss after allowing three earned runs on three hits with two walks in just one-third of an inning.

It was a season of firsts for Northwest Nazarene. The Nighthawks finished their historic season with a 35-10 overall record and a 21-3 conference mark en route to winning their second GNAC Baseball Championship and their first since 2016. The Nighthawks claimed their first-ever West Region title and became the GNAC’s first team to advance to the NCAA Division II Championships. Their 9-3 victory over Trevecca Nazarene on Monday also made history as it was the program’s and the conference’s first NCAA Championships win.

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