Tyler Best’s Hot Bat Leads Nighthawks To Opening Game Win
Jonathan Zayas was rock-sold through seven innings to lead NNU to an 8-5 win over Central Washington. | Photo by Ron Smith
Jonathan Zayas was rock-sold through seven innings to lead NNU to an 8-5 win over Central Washington. | Photo by Ron Smith

Thursday, May 11, 2023

LACEY, Wash. – A stellar starting effort by Jonathan Zayas the hot bat of Tyler Best led Northwest Nazarene to an 8-5 victory over Central Washington in the first game of the 2023 GNAC Baseball Championships in Lacey, Washington.

Zayas earned the win on the mound for the Nighthawks, allowing two runs on three hits and three walks while striking out five. Best was unstoppable at the plate for NNU, going 3 for 3 with four RBIs on a double and a walk. Central Washington’s Brayde Hirai was tagged with the loss after allowing five runs on seven hits in 0.2 innings of work.

Northwest Nazarene put traffic on the bases early with back-to-back singles from Mason Leavitt and Adam Paganelli to open the bottom of the first. Senior Shane Jamison drove in the first run of the game with an RBI single and Duke Pahukoa made the lead 2-0 in the next at-bat. The lead was 5-0 by the end of the frame with Best capping off the rally with a two-out, two-RBI double.

The defense came out equally hot, with Zayas sitting down the Wildcats in order in the second. In the top of the third, however, Central Washington ramped up the pressure. Brady Hinkle led off the inning with a double before a pair of hit batters and a walk to Ben Leid brought home the Wildcats' first run of the game. In the top of the fifth, CWU picked up its second run of the game on a sacrifice fly by Travis Helm.

After Hirai was knocked out in the first inning, sophomore Jonathan Garza II came in and threw 4.2 innings for CWU while allowing two runs on five hits and two walks while striking out six batters. From the first inning to the fifth Garza showed great command, allowing just one hit.

The NNU offense got hot again in the bottom of the fifth, tacking on a pair of runs to grow the Nighthawks’ lead to 7-2. Junior Kyle Payne came around to score on an RBI double by Quentin Ayres while Best drove in his third run of the game with a single. The Nighthawks threatened again in the sixth but couldn’t find a way to score after a pair of singles.

Central Washington took a while to get going at the plate but mounted a late challenge in the eighth to score five runs. Helm got the three-run rally started with a leadoff single before coming around to score on a Leid single. Leid crossed the plate himself two batters later as Sam Lauderdale drove a single into center field to make the score 8-4, all without recording an out. Austin Ohland also came around to score on a Trevor Tripoli ground-out to end the top of the fifth with NNU leading 8-5.

The rally would come up just short as Northwest Nazarene senior Shane Martin took the mound for the final six outs to secure the win. Martin allowed just one hit in six innings of work, striking out one.