Breaking Out The Bats: GNAC Baseball Begins In California
Montana State Billings opened its season with a bang, going deep three times in an 11-3 win over Cal Sate LA on Tuesday.
Montana State Billings opened its season with a bang, going deep three times in an 11-3 win over Cal Sate LA on Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023


Duke Pahukoa, Northwest Nazarene
IF• 6-2 • Sr. • Maui, Hawaii

Paukoa opened the season with a bang, knocking out a pair of home runs against No. 4 Point Loma in the Nighthawks’ first series of the season. He finished the week with a .273 batting average after driving in five RBIs and drawing three walks. Pahukoa doubled down on his home run total on Monday, knocking two more out of the park for 6 RBIs in NNU’s 7-4 win over PLNU.

Also Nominated: Kevin Varner, Jr. (Central Washington), Curran Mitzel (Western Oregon).

Spencer Schwehr, Northwest Nazarene
LHP • 6-0 • Sr. • Boise, Idaho

Schwehr was named the GNAC Pitcher of the Week after putting in 5.2 innings of work as a starter against Point Loma on Friday. He finished the game with a 0.00 ERA, six strikeouts and gave up just two hits.

Also Nominated: Reid Rasmussen (Central Washington), Sebasten Boivin (Western Oregon).

• Central Washington faced a bumpy start to the 2023 campaign going 0-4 to start its California road trip. The Wildcats lost a 12-11 slugfest at Redlands on Friday. In their three-game series against Cal State San Bernardino fell 8-5 and 7-5 in Saturday’s doubleheader and 19-6 in the finale on Sunday.

• Sophomore catcher Travis Helm led the offense with a .529 on base percentage while knocking in six RBIs. Helm bookended opening week with his best performances, driving in three runs on Friday against Redlands and three more on Sunday at Cal State San Bernardino, and finished the week with a .385 batting average.

• Junior outfielder Kevin Varner Jr. was another strong bat for the Wildcats in the opening week, batting .429 with an .875 slugging percentage. Varner did most of his damage in the early stages of the road trip, going 2 for 5 in including a home run with three RBIs at Redlands. Varner ranks third in Division II with three doubles entering the second week of the season.

• Sophomore left-hander Reid Rassmussen was the leader for CWU on the mound, working 4.1 innings in his start against CSUSB in the first half of the doubleheader on Saturday. Rassmussen finished the game with a 4.15 ERA, allowing four runs on four hits while striking out a pair.

• Central Washington plays a four-game series at Cal State East Bay this week and will face the Pioneers in doubleheaders on Sunday and Monday.

• Montana State Billings played its first game of the season on Tuesday and took an 11-3 win over Cal State LA to begin the 2023 campaign.

• Senior outfielder Hayden Foltz led the charge for the Yellowjackets, going 3 for 4 including a two-run home run and a double, and finished with three RBIs. Even with only one game played, Foltz is tied for third in the conference in RBIs.

• Holtz was joined by sophomore Kaden Kirshenbaum and junior Payton Flynn in going deep. Flynn notched the first home run of the season for MSUB in the first inning, knocking in two runs in the process for his lone hit of the game. Kirshenbaum padded the Yellowjacket’s lead in the ninth inning with a three-run shot to cap off his 3 for 5 night.

• Senior pitcher Daniel Naughton earned the win for MSUB and finished the game with a 4.26 ERA after allowing three runs on five hits and three walks while striking out six in 6.1 innings and neared the century mark with 95 pitches thrown.

• Montana State Billings caps off its games against Cal State LA on Wednesday ahead of a four-game series against Cal State San Marcos with single games on Thursday and Friday and a Saturday doubleheader.

• Northwest Nazarene opened the season facing stiff competition against No. 4 Point Loma and finished the series 1-4. The Sea Lions defeated NNU 7-5 and  5-3 in Friday’s doubleheader, 12-1 and 7-1 in Saturday’s doubleheader before the Nighthawks claimed their first win of the season 7-4 on Monday.

• The Nighthawks swept the GNAC Baseball Player of the Week awards with senior infielder Duke Pahukoa being named the Player of the Week and senior southpaw Spencer Schwehr earning Pitcher of the Week honors.

• Pahukoa earned recognition on the back of a pair of home runs in the first half of the series, accounting for five RBIs in five at-bats. He doubled down in Monday’s win, tacking on two more home runs and six more RBIs to finish the series with a .429 batting average and a 1.286 slugging percentage. Pahukoa’s four home runs leads the GNAC and ranks second in Division II.

• Schwehr earned a no-decision after throwing 5.2 innings in the second half of Thursday’s doubleheader. Schwehr finished with a 0.00 ERA and six strikeouts after allowing one run, which was unearned after a passed ball, on two hits.

• Northwest Nazarene will travel to the Big Island this week for a four-game series against Hawaii Hilo. The week starts with a single game on Thursday before a Friday doubleheader and the series finale on Saturday.

• Saint Martin’s has yet to play this season and will open its schedule on Friday with the first game of a four-game set against Cal State San Bernardino that includes a Saturday doubleheader.

• Saint Martin’s rounded out the GNAC Preseason Coaches Poll after finishing fourth last season with a conference record of 14-18 (19-30 overall).

• The Saints bring back three starting position players, led by junior outfielder Reid Little. He made 39 starts for SMU last season and owned a batting average of  .279 with a .365 on-base percentage and a .368 slugging percentage through 136 at-bats. Little accounted for 25 RBIs, the second most on the team and the most of any returning player on the roster.

• On the mound, First Team All-GNAC pitcher Justice Yamashita returns after posting a 6-4 record through 11 starts for the Saints in 2022. Yamashita finished his sophomore season with the No. 4 ranked ERA in the conference at 3.68. He also led the GNAC with five complete games. Yamashita ranked third in the conference with an opponent batting average of .225 and 71 strikeouts.

• Western Oregon opened the season by going 1-3 against Fresno Pacific on the road. The Wolves dropped the first two games of the series 2-1 in 10 innings on Thursday and 4-1 on Friday before taking the second half of Friday’s doubleheader with a 5-3 win. The week ended with a 5-3 loss for WOU on Saturday.

• Senior two-way player Curran Mitzel was the most reliable bat of the series for the Wolves, finishing the series with a team-leading .357 batting average, .643 slugging percentage and .438 on base percentage. For the week, Mitzel notched five hits, including two doubles and a triple, and drew two walks while scoring two runs.

• Mitzel was one of three WOU players to amass five hits in the series along with the Miaben brothers. Senior outfielder Jacob Maiben led two brothers with a .333 batting average. His best performance came in the second half of Friday’s doubleheader where he went 3 for 3 with one walk and a stolen base. Senior infielder Derek Maiben finished the week with a .312 batting average after going 2 for 5 and knocking in a pair of runs in the series finale on Saturday.

• Sophomore pitcher Dylan Chalmers worked the most innings of any Western Oregon pitcher last week, throwing for 5.2 innings on Saturday. Chalmers allowed two unearned runs on four hits and three walks while striking out three batters and finished with a 0.00 ERA.

• Western Oregon won’t return to the diamond until it hosts Eastern Oregon on Feb. 18 & 19 for a pair of doubleheaders.