Champions Clash, Battle For First Ensues In GNAC Baseball
Western Oregon pitcher Brady Miller leads the GNAC with a 4-0 record and 0.82 ERA as the Wolves travel to face Montana State Billings.
Western Oregon pitcher Brady Miller leads the GNAC with a 4-0 record and 0.82 ERA as the Wolves travel to face Montana State Billings.

Friday, March 25, 2016

WILDCATS AND CRUSADERS MEET IN EARLY BATTLE FOR FIRST: Picked third and fourth, respectively, in the preseason coaches poll, Central Washington and Northwest Nazarene have gotten off to quick starts in the GNAC, sitting in first and second place. The Wildcats and Crusaders match up this week for their first series of the season, played in Nampa, Idaho on Mar. 25 and 26.

Central Washington took three of four games over Saint Martin’s, upping their record to 8-2 in GNAC play, 12-7 overall. For the series, the Wildcats scored 37 total runs, led by a 17-run outburst in game one.

Shortstop Jonathan Dailey led the team in the series offensively, hitting 8 for 15 with four runs batted in and three runs. Outfielder Reid Martinez went 5 for 10 at the plate in three games, with two home runs, two doubles and four RBI. Second baseman Ryan Atkinson drove in a team-high six runs over the weekend, with one home run, one triple and two doubles.

Travis Cook, Kyle Blankenship and Justin Adams each picked up the victories for the Wildcats. Adams earned his second win of the season in game four of the series, allowing two runs with four walks and three strikeouts in five innings. CJ Gettman picked up his fourth save of the season in relief. Cook grabbed his first win of the year in the series opener, throwing 5.1 innings with two walks and six strikeouts. He allowed nine runs, but just three were earned. The offense was also potent behind Cook in the 17-9 victory. In game three, Blankenship advanced to 2-0, pitching five innings and allowing six runs, five earned. Martinez’s two home runs helped propel the Wildcats to the 13-6 victory.

Central Washington moved into the top-10 of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association West Region Poll, ranked ninth with 19 votes. The Crusaders are among those receiving votes with five.

Saint Martin’s earned its lone victory 10-3 in game two. Aaron Shoup threw a complete game, pitching seven innings with three walks and three strikeouts. Third baseman Blake Lord finished 2 for 4 with three runs scored and a home run. First baseman Josh Sontag also went 2 for 4 with three RBI.

For the Crusaders, they took advantage of their first rematch with Western Oregon, winning three of four games. The Wolves defeated Northwest Nazarene in the final two games of the GNAC Championships last season. After falling in game one of the series, the Crusaders responded with three straight wins, beginning with a 5-3 extra inning victory in game two. They held the Wolves offense to just seven runs in the three victories.

Colton Loomis earned the victory in game two, pitching eight innings for a complete game, allowing two earned runs with three walks and three strikeouts. He advanced his record to 4-2 with the win.

The Crusaders took game three, 3-2, behind another strong pitching performance from starter Ross Clevenger and reliever Blake Mitchell. Clevenger went 4.2 innings, allowing two runs on two hits before turning things over to Mitchell. The reliever entered the ball game tied 2-2, but shut down the Wolves over 4.1 innings, allowing just one hit with four strikeouts. First baseman Brady Baker’s one out single in the eighth inning drove in the winning run as the Crusaders took game three.

In game four, Northwest Nazarene used another two-man pitching performance to topple the Wolves. Justin Pilgrim started the game, throwing four innings with one run allowed. He advanced his record to 3-0 on the season with the victory. Reliever Ryan Nyborg pitched the final three innings, allowing one run and picking up his fourth save. Second baseman Tyler Davis hit his GNAC leading eighth home run in the fifth inning, a two-run shot that proved to be the game-winning runs.

The Crusaders advanced to 8-4 in GNAC play, 13-9 overall with the three wins over Western Oregon. They hold a three game lead over both Montana State Billings and Western Oregon for second place.

The Wolves won game one behind a stellar performance from starting pitcher Brady Miller. The sophomore threw seven innings, striking out 12 batters and allowing just one run. Outfielder Brock Pradere drove in three runs to back Miller, as he advanced to 4-0 on the season.

YELLOWJACKETS & CAVALIERS CRUSH WAY TO SPLIT: Montana State Billings and Concordia combined for 61 runs in a four-game split in the first series played in Billings. One team scored at least eight runs in each of the four games.

The Yellowjackets took game one 12-11 in a slugfest after trailing 11-5 in the sixth inning. Outfielder Luke Reinschmidt helped lead the comeback with a three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Cody Cooper led the Yellowjackets to a win in game three, throwing seven innings with three runs allowed and eight strikeouts. Designated hitter Adam Cox was named the GNAC Player of the Week after finishing 6 for 12 with two home runs, six RBI and five runs scored.

For the Cavaliers, pitcher Austin Hadley’s performance in game two earned him the GNAC Pitcher of the Week award. Hadley threw six shutout innings, striking out 11 batters on his way to his second win of the season.

Harrison McGhee led Concordia in game four to the series split, throwing six innings with three runs allowed. The Cavaliers offense exploded for 10 runs, with outfielder Tanner Williams finishing 3 for 5 with three runs scored, three RBI and two doubles.

The Cavaliers advanced their record to 4-6 in GNAC play, 6-14 overall. They are tied with Western Oregon for fourth place in the conference.

CHAMPIONS CLASH FOR FIRST TIME THIS SEASON: For the first time since the GNAC Championships, Western Oregon and Montana State Billings face off for a three-game series in Billings. The Yellowjackets became the GNAC regular season champions for the first time in program history last season, but fell in the GNAC Championships to Northwest Nazarene and eventual champions Western Oregon. The two teams were picked to finish first and second, respectively, in the preseason coaches poll, but have gotten off to rough starts in GNAC play.

Adam Cox, Montana State Billings
DH/P • 5-11 • Senior • Billings, Mont.

Cox went 6 for 12, with all of his hits going for extra bases, as the Yellowjackets split their weekend series with Northwest Nazarene. His line included three doubles, a triple, two home runs, six RBI, five runs, a 1.417 slugging percentage and a .625 on-base percentage. Cox went 3 for 5 with two doubles, a triple and three RBI in game one on Friday. Also nominated: Andrew Helmstadter (Northwest Nazarene), Josh Sontag (Saint Martin’s), Tanner Williams (Concordia).

Austin Hadley, Concordia
P • 6-0 • 160 • Senior • Vancouver, Wash.

In Concordia’s 8-1 road victory over Montana State Billings on Saturday, Hadley allowed just three hits and struck out 11 in six innings of work. The performance allowed the Cavaliers to come home with a split with the Yellowjackets. Also nominated: Cody Cooper (Montana State Billings), Blake Mitchell (Northwest Nazarene), Aaron Shoup (Saint Martin’s).