Baseball Teams Take Field For First Time In 2019
Concordia shortstop Damon Peters was named the GNAC Player of the Week after leading his club to a pair of victories at No. 5 NAIA Lewis-Clark State.
Concordia shortstop Damon Peters was named the GNAC Player of the Week after leading his club to a pair of victories at No. 5 NAIA Lewis-Clark State.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

AND WE’RE OFF: The 2019 season got underway last weekend with Concordia and Saint Martin’s each taking to the diamond for four games.

The Cavaliers emerged from their trip to No. 5 NAIA Lewis-Clark State with a pair of victories, prevailing in the first contest of each doubleheader. The club was led by shortstop Damon Peters, who hit .500 on the weekend while driving in three runs.

Down south, Saint Martin’s went 1-2 against Dixie State while dropping a single game at Cal State San Bernardino.

REPRESENTATION IN REGIONAL RANKINGS: In the preseason NCBWA West Region Rankings, Montana State Billings is ranked at No. 7 while Western Oregon comes in at No. 9. The Yellowjackets enter the 2019 campaign as the defending GNAC regular-season champions. Slotted just below them are the Wolves, fresh off a GNAC Championships title last May.

Montana State Billings will get its season underway on Saturday with a doubleheader at Colorado Mines. Western Oregon is scheduled to lift the lid on its 2019 campaign on Feb. 14 at Fresno Pacific.

IT’S AUTOMATIC: For the first time in conference history, the GNAC will receive an automatic bid into the NCAA Division II Baseball Tournament in 2019. The winner of the GNAC Championships, held May 8-10 in Portland, will receive that automatic berth. Each of the top four teams in the league standings at the culmination of the regular season will qualify for the GNAC Championships.

The defending GNAC Championships title-holders, Western Oregon, have won the tournament four times in the event’s history. Northwest Nazarene and Central Washington each enter 2019 with one tournament title.

Damon Peters, Concordia
IF • 5-11 • Jr. • Cornelius, Ore.

Peters hit .500 in four games, going 6 for 12 with seven runs, three RBI, a double, two triples, a home run, a .667 on-base percentage and a 1.167 slugging percentage to lead Concordia to a split at No. 5 (NAIA) ranked Lewis-Clark State. Peters went 1 for 2 with two walks in Friday’s nightcap. He opened Saturday by going 3 for 4 with two runs and two RBIs in the 5-3 win, finishing a single short of the cycle. Peters closed the weekend by going 2 for 3 with three runs scored in the narrow 7-6 nightcap loss.

Also Nominated: Colton Peha (Saint Martin’s).

Tanner Inouye, Saint Martin's
P • 6-0 • Jr. • Honolulu, Hawaii

Inouye earned the Saints’ first win of the season in Sunday’s 5-3 victory at Dixie State. He allowed three unearned runs on five hits and five walks, striking out three in 5.2 innings of work for his club. He allowed just one extra-base hit in his team’s victory.

Also Nominated: Dylan Diaz (Concordia).

• Finishing the regular season in third-place a year ago, Central Washington will look to make it back to the GNAC Championships for a third straight season in 2019. The Wildcats lose just two key players from last year’s club while returning six starting pitchers and five position starters.

• The club was selected in third place with one first-place vote in the preseason coaches poll.

• Head coach Desi Storey is now in his 28th season in Ellensburg. He is the winningest coach in Wildcat baseball history.

• Storey will rely on a trio of transfers to bolster his team’s pitching staff this season. Junior right-handers Ryan Marstiller (McCook CC), Colton Turner (Centralia CC) and AJ Wood (Cosumnes River College) could all contribute right away for CWU.

• A pair of Honorable Mention All-GNAC honorees are back in outfielder Justin Hampson and sophomore Mitch Lesmeister. Hampson finished last season with a .327 batting average, while Lesmeister recorded 28 runs and a .294 batting average in his first year in Ellensburg.

• Central Washington opens up its 2019 season this weekend with a four-game series at Academy of Art.

• Looking to get the 2019 campaign started off on the right foot, Concordia took to Lewiston, Idaho over the weekend and split a four-game series against No. 5 NAIA Lewis-Clark State. The Cavaliers won the first game of each doubleheader, prevailing 11-8 on Friday and 5-3 on Saturday.

• The club was led by shortstop Damon Peters, who hit .500 with seven runs, three RBI, a double, two triples, a home run, a .667 on-base percentage and a 1.167 slugging percentage. Peters’ performance earned him the first GNAC Player of the Week award of 2019.

• On the mound, sophomore Dylan Diaz helped CU to the split. The right-hander went 1-0 in two appearances, striking out six in 4.1 innings.

• Concordia is hitting .236 this year, which leads the conference through one week of play. The team hit two home runs and has 19 RBIs after four games.

• The team will return to the diamond this weekend, taking to The City for a three-game set at San Francisco State.

• Montana State Billings finished 2018 on top of the conference standings, giving the program its third regular-season championship in the past four years.

• A strong 13-3 record in the month of April helped the Yellowjackets lock up the championship prior to the final week of league play.

• This year’s club loses five All-GNAC players from that team but does return four position starters and two starting pitchers in addition to bringing in nine transfers. Senior Steen Fredrickson (2018 First Team All-GNAC, 4.67 ERA) will bolster the club’s young pitching staff.

• At the plate, another pair of First Team All-GNAC seniors are back in outfielder Jalen Garcia and infielder Conner Linebarger. Garcia hit at a .351 clip in 2018 with 51 RBI, while Linebarger wasn’t far behind with a .333 average and 44 RBI. Garcia was named a NCBWA Preseason All-American last month.

• Head coach Aaron Sutton is now in his third year in Billings. He has compiled a 56-47 record.

• In the preseason NCAA Division II West Region Rankings, Montana State Billings is ranked at No. 7.

• The Yellowjackets will get their 2019 season underway this weekend, traveling to Golden, Colorado for three games against Colorado Mines.

• Northwest Nazarene brings back six starting pitchers and five position starters from its 2018 roster. The team was selected fifth in the preseason coaches poll.

• Junior second baseman Parker Price was a Second Team All-GNAC pick and is the Nighthawks top returning hitter with a .324 average to go along with 60 hits and 26 RBI. Following closely behind Price is first baseman Kyle Redford. Redford is coming off a junior campaign in which he hit at a .274 clip with 29 RBI.

• On the mound, seniors Jesse Hilyard and Greg Casper are back. Hilyard finished last season with a 3.93 ERA, while Casper (4.84 ERA, 68 strikeouts) held opponents to a .212 average.

• This will be head coach Joe Schaefer’s first year in Nampa. Schaefer spent the last 10 years as the head coach at Point Loma, compiling a 341-217 record and taking the Sea Lions to the NCAA Division II Tournament in 2016 and 2018.

• A commitment to clean defensive play was a staple for NNU a year ago. The club finished second in the GNAC in fielding percentage with a total of .958.

• The team will lift the lid on its 2019 season this weekend in St. George, Utah, facing Dixie State in a pair of contests before winding the week down with two games against Colorado Mesa.

• Saint Martin’s finished the first week of play with a 1-3 record. The Saints dropped a pair of games in San Bernardino against Dixie State and Cal State San Bernardino before moving to St. George and splitting two more contests with the Trailblazers.

• As a team, Saint Martin’s hit .208 with 16 RBIs over the weekend. The club’s 3.66 ERA leads the GNAC through one week.

• Third baseman Micah McNicoll led the team offensively. The junior went 6 for 15 over the weekend, which included a 3 for 5 performance with one RBI in the finale against Dixie State. His .400 batting average tops the Saints.

• Right-hander Tanner Inouye impressed on the bump, earning the team’s only victory of the weekend. The junior allowed three runs (all unearned) on five hits and five walks, striking out three in 5.2 innings of work. Inouye was named the first GNAC Pitcher of the Week on Monday.

• As a team, Saint Martin’s held its opponents to a .250 batting average against over the four games.

• The Saints are off this week in preparation for a five-game series at College of Idaho from Feb. 14-17.

• Western Oregon’s 2018 campaign ended in what has become a familiar scene for the program - a dogpile at the end of the GNAC Championships. Despite struggling to gain momentum early in the season, the club regained its footing and competed at a high level from the month of March onward.

• The Wolves recorded six shutout victories in conference play, ranking No. 19 nationally and doubling the amount of the next-closest GNAC team.

• A dominant pitching staff carried WOU throughout the year, leading the GNAC in earned run average (4.64), opponent batting average (.263) and fewest hits allowed (405).

• The staff returns three key starters in upperclassmen Alex Roth, Jacob Fricke and Gabe Benavides. A First Team All-GNAC selection a year ago, Roth tallied a 5-1 record and a 3.77 ERA. Fricke (3-2, 4.01 ERA) received Second Team All-GNAC honors while Benavides also won three games in his first year after transferring in from Division I Grand Canyon.

• Of the team’s 25 returners, five are position starters. That group is led by catcher Jared McDonald, a First Team All-GNAC and Honorable Mention NCBWA All-West Region selection a year ago.

• Western Oregon will get its 2019 campaign underway on Feb. 14, starting a four-game set at Fresno Pacific.