Baseball: 2014 Season Review
MSUB second baseman Brody Miller was picked as the GNAC Player of the Year after leading the conference in hits (67) and on-base percentage (.498) during his junior campaign.
MSUB second baseman Brody Miller was picked as the GNAC Player of the Year after leading the conference in hits (67) and on-base percentage (.498) during his junior campaign.
CWU right fielder Ethan Sterkel was selected as an all-American by the NCBWA after leading the GNAC with a .402 batting average.
CWU right fielder Ethan Sterkel was selected as an all-American by the NCBWA after leading the GNAC with a .402 batting average.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. – Taking home its first ever Great Northwest Athletic Conference baseball title, Central Washington avenged last season’s championship series loss to Western Oregon by defeating the Wolves in the 2014 tournament title game 9-1

In the process of winning all three of their games in the 2014 GNAC Championships, CWU head coach Desi Storey earned career victory No. 500 as the Wildcats finished the season with an overall record of 31-18 and a mark of 17-14 in conference play. 

Central Washington right fielder and GNAC batting leader Ethan Sterkel garnered National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association honorable mention all-American honors, after batting .402 and striking out just eight times in his senior campaign.

Montana State University Billings second baseman Brody Miller became the first ever Yellowjacket to earn all-American honors, as he appeared on the NCBWA third team and was also a Daktronics honorable mention selection. Miller, the GNAC Player of the Year, batted .392 while leading the conference in hits (67) and on-base percentage (.498) during his junior season. 

Despite falling to CWU in the GNAC Championships, Western Oregon wrapped up its 13th-consecutive regular season title, finishing the year with a 30-21 record including 22-10 in conference action. 

The Wolves’ Daniel McNabb was an NCBWA honorable mention all-region selection, after leading his team in batting average at .344 and driving in 36 runs on the season.

WOU junior Eric Huson was among GNAC leaders on the mound all season long, posting an ERA of 2.81 in 73 2/3 innings pitched with one shutout. Huson established a new GNAC record for consecutive scoreless innings pitched, as he reached 28 during a stretch spanning from March into April.

Matt Taylor joined McNabb as a top-10 hitter in the conference, as he batted .333 with 16 extra-base hits, 33 RBI and eight stolen bases. WOU center fielder Chris Bradshaw led the conference in runs scored with 45.

Spenser Watkins and Matt Minnich were also key starters for the Wolves this season, combining to win 13 games.

Watkins struck out 83 batters in 82 1/3 innings of work, holding opponents to a .218 batting average with an ERA of 3.50.

Minnich struck out 46 batters in 53 1/3 innings pitched, holding a 4.05 ERA and opponents’ batting average of .231.

While Sterkel fueled Central Washington’s offense this season, GNAC Pitcher of the Year Brandon Williams kept opponents at bay with a conference-low 1.81 ERA. The junior right-hander struck out a GNAC-high 89 batters in 79.2 innings pitched, totaling six complete games and three shutouts along the way. He did not allow a home run this season. 

Williams’ eight-strikeout shutout against Saint Martin’s in the GNAC Championships helped CWU set the tone with the first of three victories in the team’s championship run. 

Williams was a second-team all-region selection on three lists, including NCBWA, Daktronics, as well as the American Baseball Coaches Association.

GNAC Newcomer of the Year Cory Welch played a key role in leading CWU to its first conference title as well, leading the GNAC with 12 saves while starting 46 games at shortstop. The junior transfer was nearly untouchable on the hill, striking out 39 batters and allowing just two earned runs for an ERA of 0.53 in 34 innings in relief. 

Eric Tinnell and Kasey Bielec were two other crucial bats for the Wildcats who earned all-region honors this season. Tinnell batted .340 with 38 runs scored and a GNAC-best 11 stolen bases, while Bielec hit .339 and led the conference in RBI with 39. 

Saint Martin’s earned its first trip to the GNAC Championships this season, thanks in large part to Daktronics and NCBWA first team all-region selection Chandler Tracy. The junior entered the season nine home runs shy of the all-time GNAC record of 29, and led the conference with 11 to break the career mark.

Tracy also posted the highest slugging percentage in the GNAC at .622, adding seven doubles and a triple to push his extra-base hit total to 19. Tracy drove in 35 runs on the season, and was one of just two GNAC players to hit two home runs in a single game.

Also earning all-region honors for the Saints was designated hitter Travis Shaw, who was an NCBWA honorable mention all-region selection after batting .322. Shaw notched 10 doubles and a pair of home runs, and held an on-base percentage of .403 for the Saints. 

Alex Bielaski was the Saints’ top hitter this season, landing fifth in the GNAC with a batting average of .347. Zack Larsen earned GNAC Freshman of the Year honors after batting .292 and starting 47 games at shortstop, and senior first baseman Spencer Dodd converted 325 of 326 fielding chances for a stellar percentage of .997.

Zach Carter was the top pitcher for SMU this season, leading the conference with 90 2/3 innings pitched. The junior tossed four complete games for the Saints and allowed just one home run all season.

SMU head coach Ken Garland was picked by his peers as the GNAC Coach of the Year, after piloting the Saints to an 18-30 overall mark and a 14-17 record in GNAC play. Appearing to be out of the playoff picture, SMU won eight of its final 10 contests including five of seven against Western Oregon and Central Washington to force its way into the conference tournament.

Despite Miller’s all-American season, MSUB fell out of the GNAC Championships race with an overall record of 16-30 and a mark of 13-19 in conference action. The Yellowjackets played their first 26 games on the road, before closing the season with 20 consecutive home contests.

A pair of sophomores had breakout seasons for MSUB, as Luke Reinschmidt and Kevin Toon were each in the top-5 in the GNAC in batting and were first team all-conference selections.

Reinschmidt hit .359 with a GNAC-high 16 doubles and five triples. His slugging percentage of .569 was third-best in the conference, and his nine stolen bases were the second most. The highlight of Reinschmidt’s season came on March 28, when he became just the third player in GNAC history to hit for the cycle in a 16-7 win over Northwest Nazarene. Reinschmidt, who was batting ninth in the order during the game, dramatically completed the feat with a triple in the ninth inning after collecting the first three legs of the cycle in his prior four at-bats. 

Toon hit .348 on the season for MSUB, with 10 doubles and 28 runs batted in. His .411 on-base percentage was seventh-best in the conference, and he made just two errors in 127 chances for a fielding percentage of .984 on the season.

Brady Muller was MSUB’s top starter this season, striking out 36 batters in 49 innings pitched. Jake Mills was effective out of the bullpen for the ‘Jackets, striking out 26 batters and posting an ERA of 2.76 in 42 1/3 innings of relief. 

Narrowly missing the 2014 postseason tournament, Northwest Nazarene finished the season with an overall record of 18-31 and a mark of 13-19 in GNAC play.

The Crusaders rode the effort of Daktronics second-team all-region pitcher Aaron Vaughn, who tied CWU’s Williams for the GNAC lead in victories with nine. Vaughn had an outstanding senior campaign, striking out 76 batters and posting a 3.32 ERA in 84 innings pitched. Vaughn also led the conference in complete games with seven – including one shutout – and moved into sixth place in GNAC history with 18 career wins.

Colben McGuire had a promising first year in the GNAC for the Crusaders, logging four complete games and striking out 53 batters in 77 1/3 innings pitched.

Offensively, Kyle Thomson, Tate Glasgow and Sam Cook were three of NNU’s most productive players this season.

Thomson led the team with a .308 batting average, stealing five bases and posting an on-base percentage of .399 in 35 starts.

Glasgow started 48 games for the Crusaders, batting .303 and leading the team with 17 extra-base hits and a .493 slugging percentage.

Cook batted .301 and started all 49 games during his senior campaign, driving in a team-high 25 runs and scoring 24 times.