Wolves Open Title Defense With Win Over Central Washington
Chris Hardin threw the first six innings for Western Oregon on the way to the Wolves' 5-4 win over Central Washington. | Photo by Ron Smith
Chris Hardin threw the first six innings for Western Oregon on the way to the Wolves' 5-4 win over Central Washington. | Photo by Ron Smith

Thursday, May 11, 2023

LACEY, Wash. – Western Oregon lived up to its No. 1 seed status, defeating No. 3 seed Central Washington to open its GNAC Baseball Championships title defense with a 5-4 victory.

In a game of fine margins, Jacob Maiben led the way for Western Oregon at the plate, going 1 for 3 with two RBIs and a walk, including a sacrifice fly. Senior Sebasten Boivin earned the win on the mound after a critical inning of relief work where he allowed one run on two hits with a pair of strikeouts. Ryan Shipley picked up the save with two innings of work to close out the game.

Senior Chris Hardin started the game on the mound for the Wolves. Through six innings he allowed two runs on three hits and three walks while striking out a pair.

Central Washington junior Reid Rasmussen has the best opening possible for a starting pitcher, retiring the first three WOU batters on just three pitches. Offensively, the Wildcats picked up where it left off against Northwest Nazarene, getting on the board early with an RBI double by Jake Felton in the second inning.

The top of the Wolves’ order came back to even the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the third. Junior Levi Cummings got the inning started with a leadoff single through the infield. Cummings came around to score after Derek Maiben reached first base on a fielder’s choice and an error by Central Washington second baseman Charlie Larson.

It was Cummings once again who got the offense going in the fourth inning, hitting a leadoff single before stealing second and reaching third on another error. It was Jacob Maiben who brought in Cummings to score, hitting a sacrifice fly to shallow center field to give Western Oregon a 2-1 lead heading into the sixth.

Central Washington starter Reid Rasmussen threw 5.1 innings for the Wildcats. Rasmussen allowed two runs on seven hits and three walks before sophomore Nolan Milliman entered in relief after Western Oregon’s AJ Cortese and Justyn Herzog put runners on the corners in the sixth to knock Rasmussen out of the game. With the bases loaded and two outs, Cummings worked a four-pitch walk to bring Cortese around to score and make it a 3-1 Wolves lead.

Boivin came in to relieve Hardin in the seventh inning after Trenton Love worked a leadoff walk for CWU. Boivin came in and initially stabilized the inning, striking out the first two batters he faced before Central Washington’s Trevor Tripoli created some two-out trouble with a single into shallow center.

That trouble multiplied as Larson hit a single through the infield to bring Love home to score and slash the WOU lead in half. That lead would disappear entirely as second-baseman Cedric Gatter failed to corral a hard-hit ground ball by Central Washington’s  Kevin Varner Jr. that tied the game at 3-3.

The Wolves came roaring back immediately to reclaim the lead in the bottom of the seventh. Derek Maiben led off the inning with a single and sophomore John Oleson drove a single into right field to put runners on the corners. Cortese was hit by a pitch to load the bases and force Milliman out of the game. It was Herzog who brought home the go-ahead run by reaching first base on a fielder’s choice and bringing Derek Maiben in to score.

The game-winning run came in the eighth inning as Jacob Maiben drove in catcher Hibiki Ouchi to score on an RBI single. Tripoli made sure that Central Washington didn’t go out without a bang, however, blasting a home run over the left field fence to cap off his collegiate career. With the win, Western Oregon is guaranteed to play in tomorrow’s championship game while Central Washington’s season has come to an end with a 22-29 final record.

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