Keller K's Nighthawks To Opening Victory
Haden Keller struck out 13, including eight of the first nine batters, in a 2-0 Northwest Nazarene win. Photo by Amanda Loman.
Haden Keller struck out 13, including eight of the first nine batters, in a 2-0 Northwest Nazarene win. Photo by Amanda Loman.

Friday, May 13, 2022

MONMOUTH, Ore. – A dominant outing from Haden Keller and a pair of clutch two-out hits allowed top-seeded Northwest Nazarene to begin the GNAC Championships on the right foot with a 2-0 win over Montana State Billings at the WOU Baseball Field in Monmouth, Oregon.

Keller was magnificent, setting a GNAC season-high with 13 strikeouts in eight one-hit innings and scoring the first run of the ballgame offensively. Keller struck out the side in the first and third innings and recorded eight of his first nine outs via strikeout.

He walked three and hit a batter but did not allow multiple baserunners in any inning. The Yellowjackets only managed a single by James Anderson in the third inning off Keller. Mitch Winter had a ninth-inning single off Nighthawks closer Max Holtzclaw for the Yellowjackets’ second and final hit, but Holtzclaw shut the door for his 12th save.

The Nighthawks got on the board early thanks to a two-out rally in the bottom of the first. Hitting for himself in the No. 3 spot, Keller reached on a two-out single from Yellowjackets starter Matthew Houlihan. After Keller moved to second when Duke Pahukoa walked, he scored when first baseman Alex Salsman ripped a 1-2 pitch into left field for an RBI single.

Plenty of zeros followed after that. Houlihan impressed as well, pitching all eight of the Yellowjackets’ defensive innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with three walks and six strikeouts.

Another run would not score until the bottom of the sixth. Catcher Rumble Reyes legged out a double with one out, just beating the tag with a slide into second base. Houlihan rebounded to strike out Kyle Payne and got ahead 0-2 on Ryan Dearing, but the Nighthawks center fielder squared up a fastball into the right-center field gap to score Reyes. Reyes was the only player on either team with multiple hits, going 2 for 4 with his run scored.

The loss means MSUB will finish the round robin portion of the GNAC Championships at 1-1. They will appear in at least one game on Saturday and are still in championship contention, but who they play depends on the outcome of the game between NNU and Western Oregon at 12:30 p.m. on Friday.

Should the Nighthawks win that game, it would eliminate Western Oregon and ensure a finals match-up between these two teams. If the Wolves beat NNU, Western Oregon and Montana State Billings would play an elimination game on Saturday for the right to play Northwest Nazarene in a winner-take-all championship game.