Nighthawks Back On Track After Mayor's Cup Sweep
Grant Kerry won the GNAC Player of the Week award after hitting .533 with five RBI and four assists from the outfield.
Grant Kerry won the GNAC Player of the Week award after hitting .533 with five RBI and four assists from the outfield.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

PORTLAND, Ore. – After winning the NCAA West Regional last season, Northwest Nazarene did not shy away from testing themselves against tough competition, beginning the season 2-6 after eight games against reigning Pacific West champs Azusa Pacific and current national No. 5 Point Loma.

This week against College of Idaho, NNU dominated the competition. The Nighthawks turned the Mayor’s Cup rivalry into not much of a rivalry at all, winning 11-2 on Thursday, 6-3 on Friday, and 7-1 and 14-11 on Saturday for a four-game sweep of the ‘Yotes.

Northwest Nazarene also achieved another sweep off the field, taking both of the GNAC’s weekly awards. Outfielder Grant Kerry was named GNAC Player of the Week after hitting .533 (8 for 15) with five RBI, five runs scored and three stolen bases. Kerry had a three-hit game with a double and a sacrifice fly on Thursday and finished the week going 4 for 5 with a home run in Saturday’s second game. Kerry also had 34 putouts in the field without making an error and collected four outfield assists.

Closer Max Holtzclaw slammed the door multiple times on his way to the GNAC Pitcher of the Week award. In three dominant appearances, Holtzclaw faced 10 batters, retired them all and struck out eight of them on his way to three saves. In his first appearance on Friday, Holtzclaw needed only 11 pitches to strike out the side.

Haden Keller also flashed two-way star potential for the Nighthawks. Keller hit .500 (6 for 12) with a home run, six RBIs and five runs scored in two starts in the outfield and one start at designated hitter. Keller took the mound for the opening game of the doubleheader on Saturday and was exceptional, giving up only three hits in seven shutout innings and striking out 12 while walking none.

Saint Martin’s had a terrific week, taking three out of five games from Hawaii Pacific on the road. The Saints pulled a slight stunner on Friday defeating Sharks ace Jack O’Brien, who was the reigning NCBWA National Pitcher of the Week. Bryant Nakagawa came through with an RBI single in the second inning and SMU added two unearned runs in the third before blowing it open against Hawaii Pacific’s bullpen for a series-opening 9-2 victory.

Hawaii Pacific rebounded with 9-2 and 4-3 wins on Saturday, but the Saints flipped the script and took the series with two wins on Sunday, 8-4 and 5-2. Outfielder Reid Little carried the Saints on offense, hitting .357 (6 for 14) with six RBI. His best game was the opening game Sunday. Little had three hits, including a two-run double in the first inning, and also drove in a run on a bases-loaded walk in the eighth.

Montana State Billings had a challenging road series against then-No. 3 Colorado Mesa, but the Yellowjackets more than held their own. After dropping the opening game 15-5 on Thursday, MSUB shocked the Mavericks with a 5-4 win on Friday behind a stellar pitching performance from Matthew Houlihan. Houlihan went the distance, throwing a complete game on 115 pitches, giving up four runs on eight hits and striking out nine.

Offensively, the Yellowjackets rallied from 4-2 down, getting an RBI single from second baseman Bodee Wright in the sixth before first baseman Mitch Winter tied it with a home run in the eighth. Blake Murphy then pinch-hit, drew a walk and eventually came around to score on Carson Green’s single to allow Houlihan to finish the game for the win. The Yellowjackets lost the second game on Friday 12-7 and then lost 6-3 on Saturday.

Western Oregon enjoyed their home opener against Eastern Oregon, but a scheduled four-game series was reduced to two due to weather. The Wolves lost the first game 3-1 in 10 innings despite a strong start from Matthew Dunaway, who gave up one run in five innings and struck out another eight batters. Reigning GNAC Pitcher of the Year Mike Peterson made his first appearance of the season in relief and threw a 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout.

Western Oregon rescued the split with a 2-1 seven-inning win in the following game, scoring on a pair of sacrifice flies from Mason Whitehead and Jacob Maiben. Starting pitcher Seth Kuykendall was brilliant, throwing six innings and giving up one run on four hits with eight strikeouts and two walks.

Central Washington had its hands full with NAIA superpower Lewis-Clark State. The Warriors swept CWU in four games, winning 10-2 Friday, 15-5 and 5-0 Saturday and 9-4 Sunday. Austin Ohland had two RBI for the Wildcats and leads the GNAC with 10 doubles while Austin Hauck hit another home run to extend his total to a conference-leading four.

Looking ahead, four of five teams will be in action this week, including the first inter-conference match-ups of the season. After playing then-No. 3 Colorado Mesa, Montana State Billings will return to the Rocky Mountains for a four-game set with Colorado Christian. That Colorado Mesa team, now ranked No. 7, will host Northwest Nazarene for four games, two apiece on Friday and Saturday.

Western Oregon and Central Washington will play each other in a doubleheader in Ellensburg on Saturday as nonconference contests designed to get both teams more in-region games. Conference play begins at the start of next month on Friday, March 4.

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