GNAC’s Top Two Teams Set To Square Off In Nampa
Northwest Nazarene will host Western Oregon this weekend in a battle of the top two teams in the GNAC standings.
Northwest Nazarene will host Western Oregon this weekend in a battle of the top two teams in the GNAC standings.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Western Oregon will travel to Northwest Nazarene this weekend for the first meeting of the season between the current top two teams in the GNAC standings.

Western Oregon enters the series with a 1.5-game lead in the standings, but has played four less games due to rainouts. Northwest Nazarene, meanwhile, is on a two-game winning streak and has a 6-4 record at home.

The Crusaders have the GNAC’s best offense so far this year, scoring 168 runs, including 83 in their last eight games. The Wolves counter with one of the best pitching staffs in the GNAC. Western Oregon is striking out 8.68 batters per nine innings and three of its starting pitchers rank in the top 10 in the conference in ERA.

The Northwest Nazarene offense has been led in the last two weeks by Billy King who became the first GNAC player this year to earn the conference Player of the Week honor twice in a row. He was also named the NCBWA West Region Player of the Week after hitting six home runs while going 11 for 24 on the week.

The Wolves boast one of the toughest players to strikeout in the nation. Brock Pradere is one of three players in the nation (among qualifiers) that hasn’t been struck out this season. He has gone 66 straight plate appearances dating back to last season without being retired on strikes.

Elsewhere in the GNAC, Montana State Billings will travel to Central Washington for an important series between the two teams in the middle of the standings. Central Washington holds a half-game lead for third place. The top four teams in the conference advance to the GNAC Championships. The third series features Saint Martin’s at Concordia, which will now begin on Friday.


Billy King, Northwest Nazarene
1B/OF • 6-2 • Sr. • Anacortes, Wash.

King went 11 for 24 with six home runs and 10 RBIs in six games to earn his second straight weekly award. He had four hits and a pair of home runs in two games against NAIA power Lewis-Clark State. He then had two home runs in Saturday’s series finale with Montana State Billings, including a game-winning two-run shot in the ninth.

Also Nominated:
Brock Pradere (Western Oregon), Zach Robinson (Montana State Billings).

Craig Grubbe, Western Oregon
RHP • 6-1 • Jr. • San Diego, Calif.

Grubbe threw seven shutout innings of five-hit baseball, which included three strikeouts. Grubbe left the game in the seventh inning with the score tied 0-0. He took a no decision, but allowed Western Oregon to go onto win on a walkoff sacrifice fly. He brought his ERA on the season down to 2.55

Also Nominated:
Jake Levin (Central Washington), Brady Baker (Northwest Nazarene).


• The Wildcats won the first three games in their series against Concordia. The fourth game was interrupted by rain and will be finished on a later date.
• Dylan Freyre had his 18-game hitting streak come to an end in the second game of the series. He now has a .456 batting average, which ranks 15th in NCAA Division II.
• Mackenzie Gaul picked up his conference-best fifth win of the season in the third game. He threw five innings with four runs allowed on seven hits and three walks, but the Wildcats put three on the board in the bottom of the fifth inning for the win.
• Kyle Blankenship came in the game in the seventh inning to strikeout the side for his third save of the season and the Wildcats’ GNAC-best 14th overall victory.
• Connor Plaisance leads the GNAC in doubles with nine and also has a GNAC-best 14 extra-base hits. Nearly half of his hits have gone for extra bases.
• James Smith has hit four home runs and driven in a team-best 17 runs while scoring 15 times himself. He has started all 25 games in left field.
• Jake Levin threw five shutout innings in the Wildcats’ 2-1 victory in the second game of the series. He now has a GNAC-best 1.67 ERA this year and a 4-1 record.
• This week, Central Washington will host Montana State Billings in a four-game set that will begin on Friday. Last year, the Yellowjackets edged Central Washington by a single game for the final spot in the GNAC Championships.

• Concordia dropped all three games against Central Washington and led the fourth game 3-0 before it was halted for rain. That game will be concluded on a later date. The Cavaliers are now on a 6-game losing streak.
• Tyler Charlton took a loss despite throwing a two-run complete game in the second game of the series. Charleton allowed just five hits and a walk and brought his ERA on the season down to 5.59 in seven outings.
• Adam Taylor and Cole Crosby are two of 20 players in the GNAC that have a batting average above .300 this season with a combined 11 extra-base hits. Crosby went 3 for 8 in the first two games of the series. Taylor was moved up to the two-hole in the lineup for the second game of the series and went 3 for 4 with a run and RBI.
• The Cavaliers have continued to find ways to score despite offensive struggles. Concordia ranks last in the conference in batting average at .235, but is third in the conference in runs with 95.
• James Brooks leads the team in ERA at 3.76 with most of his appearances coming in relief. He has thrown 26.1 innings in eight outings and has recorded two saves.
• Concordia will host Saint Martin’s this weekend with a four-game series beginning on Friday. The two teams are at the bottom of the conference standings after the first four weeks of conference play.

• Montana State Billings split with Northwest Nazarene last week, winning the first two games before falling in both games on Saturday.
• Casey Merritt was the hero of the second game, hitting a walk-off triple in the bottom of the seventh inning  to drive in Zach Robinson and Alec Leighton for a 12-11 victory. It was Merritt’s third triple of the year and his sixth extra-base hit.
• The Yellowjackets also had some heroics late in the first game of the series with Robinson hitting a two-RBI single up the middle in the bottom of the eighth inning to break a tie for the 7-5 victory.
• Bryon Baker took a no-decision in the series finale after leaving the game tied 4-4 after six innings of work. He struck out five batters, but allowed four hits and six walks.
• Cody Cooper struckout eight batters in his start to move into sixth place in GNAC history on the strikeouts list. He now has 193 career strikeouts and could become the sixth player in GNAC history to reach 200 career strikeouts.
• Robinson went a combined 6 for 8 in the first two games of the series with six runs and five RBIs. He now has a .477 on-base percentage, which ranks third in the GNAC this season.
• Merritt has a .345 batting average which ranks fifth in the GNAC this season. He also has five stolen bases and 13 runs in 23 games played.
• Montana State Billings ranks second in the conference offensively with 136 runs scored and a .262 batting average. The Yellowjackets have also hit a league-best eight triples this season.
• The Yellowjackets will next play at Central Washington in a four-game series that will begin on Saturday.

• The league’s leading offense had a big week, tallying 35 runs in four games as the Crusaders earned a split against Montana State Billings.
• The Crusaders scored a combined 83 runs in their last eight games. They have scored a total of 168 runs this season which is the most in the GNAC.
• Billy King picked up his second consecutive GNAC Player of the Week honor and first West Region Player of the Week recognition after blasting six home runs last week. He got off to a slow start to the series being retired five times in a row, but then hit four home runs in the final three games of the series.
• King has now hit 10 home runs this year which is double what anyone else in the conference has done. He also leads the conference in slugging percentage at .735 in 25 games played. King ranks 18th in the nation in home runs.
• Brady Baker improved to 4-0 on the season, earning the win in relief in the series finale. He has thrown 20.1 innings in 10 relief appearances and has a team-best 3.10 ERA with 22 strikeouts.
• Brett Nielsen went 2 for 5 with a two-run home run in the second game of the series. He has hit three home runs this season and recorded a team-best 22 RBIs.
• Senior Andrew Helmstadter is eight total bases away from becoming the 11th player in GNAC history to reach 300 career total bases. He has recorded 44 this year with seven doubles and five home runs. Over half of his hits have gone for extra bases this year.
• Northwest Nazarene will host Western Oregon this weekend in a battle between the top two teams in the conference standings, beginning on Friday.

• The Saints only got two games in of their four-game series agaisnt Western Oregon with the second doubleheader being rained out. The two games that were played were split with the Saints taking the second game, 2-1.
• Ryan Dorney started the second game and threw 5.2 innings of one-run baseball with four strikeouts. Luke Hare entered the game in relief and threw 2.1 hitless innings with only one runner reaching base on an error to pick up the win.
• The Saints won on a walk-off sacrifice fly by Austin Feist to drive in Isaac Hegamin, who led off the inning with a single.
• Saint Martin’s has now claimed wins against four of the other five teams in the GNAC. The only one remaining is Concordia, which will be the Saints’ opponent this weekend in a four-game series that will start on Friday.
• Aaron Shoup took the loss in the first game, throwing 7.1 innings with seven runs allowed, four earned, on 11 hits and two walks. He struck out six batters as he picked up his third loss of the season.
• Steven Sordahl continues to lead the SMU offense with a .338 batting average in 19 games played. He has hit five doubles and driven in 10 runs.
• Ryan Dorney now has a 1.80 ERA, which ranks third in the GNAC this season. He still has not earned his first win of the season though in six outings with just six earned runs allowed.
• Trevor Young has made five relief appearances so far this year and has not allowed an earned run in 8.1 innings of work.

• The Wolves split their doubleheader against Saint Martin’s before the second doubleheader was postponed due to rain.
• Western Oregon’s offense exploded for eight runs against Saint Martin’s in the first game with Brock Pradere going 3 for 5 with an RBI.
• Pradere has not struck out all year. He is one of three players in Division II with that distinction. Going back to last season, Pradere has not struck out in 66 consecutive plate appearances. He has put the ball in play 58 times, walked seven times and been hit by a pitch once.
• Brady Miller earned the victory in the first game, throwing seven shutout innings with five strikeouts for his second win of the season. The defending GNAC Pitcher of the Year has a 2-2 record and a 4.45 ERA in six outings with 30.1 innings pitched.
• Craig Grubbe was named GNAC Pitcher of the Week after throwing seven shutout innings in a no-decision. He now has a 2.55 ERA with one win and two no-decisions in three outings.
• Freshman Connor McCord has quietly been one of the GNAC’s best pitchers last year. After a number of successful relief appearances, he made his first collegiate start against Saint Martin’s. He threw 4.2 innings with one unearned run allowed on just two hits with four strikeouts. He now has a 2-0 record and a 1.69 ERA that ranks second in the GNAC. He also leads the conference in WHIP at 0.94 in 16 innings of work.
• The Wolves’ offense is led by Justin Waken, who is batting .349 with an on-base percentage of .451 in 17 games.
• Western Oregon will travel to Northwest Nazarene this weekend for an important four-game series against the Crusaders beginning on Friday. The Wolves have a 1.5-game lead over NNU in the conference standings after four weeks of conference play.