GNAC Toes The Rubber Facing Regional Foes & Weather
Montana State Billings is on the road this week in California along with Central Washington, Northwest Nazarene and Western Oregon.
Montana State Billings is on the road this week in California along with Central Washington, Northwest Nazarene and Western Oregon.

Thursday, February 8, 2024
by Thomas Lal

PORTLAND, Ore. – Roughly one month after handing Western Washington its first loss of the conference slate, Alaska Anchorage went into the Vikings’ house and did it again, spoiling WWU’s perfect home record and allowing Montana State Billings to reclaim sole possession of first place in the GNAC standings.

The Seawolves are now responsible for both of the Vikings’ only GNAC losses and half of their total losses on the season. Alaska Anchorage sits third in the standings coming into the week with a 7-4 conference record (13-7 overall) behind No. 14 MSUB’s 10-1 GNAC mark (19-4 overall) and No. 19 WWU’s 9-2 conference record (17-4 overall). Behind the leading trio, a four-way battle for fourth place in the standings rages between Central Washington, Simon Fraser, Northwest Nazarene and Seattle Pacific who all own a 5-6 GNAC record.

GNAC Baseball Schedule - Feb. 8-11
Opponent(s) Location(s)
CWU Cal State San Bernardino San Bernardino, CA
MSUB Chico State Chico, CA
NNU Stanislaus State Turlock, CA
SMU Hawaii Hilo, Hawaii Pacific, Chaminade Hilo/Waipahu, HI
WOU Westmont, San Francisco State San Francisco, CA

View the complete 2024 GNAC baseball schedule online here.

This Week's Storylines

Even with inclement weather wreaking havoc across southern California, GNAC teams managed to play 10 games during the opening week of the season. Defending conference champion Western Oregon was the only team not able to take the field after the entirety of its four-game series with Fresno Pacific was canceled. With more weather repercussions potentially in the forecast this week, teams will be looking to make the most of their contests against regional opponents in California and Hawaii this week ahead of the conference slate which begins the first week of March.

LIGHTNING ON THE BASES: Saint Martin’s opened the season with a three-game series at Eastern Oregon and went 1-2 to start the year after having its own California series canceled due to weather. The Saints picked up their first win of the year with a 7-6 victory in the series finale last Saturday. Reigning GNAC Player of the Week Austin Schaler led SMU at the plate and on the basepaths. Schaler nabbed the weekly honor by posting a .750 on base percentage in 12 plate appearances while also hitting .571 with a double and a home run. The senior outfielder was also a perfect five-for-five in stolen bases on the week, the most of any player in the conference.

Junior pitcher Colin Driscoll was one of three GNAC pitchers to not allow a hit last week while throwing four innings and facing 11 batters. Driscoll got his first start of the season in the Saints’ first win of the year on Saturday, striking out four batters and giving up three unearned runs on three walks while throwing 59 pitches.

The Saints will be on the road this week, making a trip to Hawaii for seven games at the Big Island Baseball Bash. Five of those games are set for this week with SMU facing Hawaii Hilo for a doubleheader on Thursday before taking on Hawaii Pacific on Friday, Chaminade on Saturday ahead of another Sunday meeting with the Vulcans. Saturday’s game against Chaminade will be the first time in program history that the two teams face each other as the Silverswords return to the diamond for the first time in over 40 years.

HOPING FOR MORE SUNNY DAYS: Northwest Nazarene and Central Washington both played just two games last week due to weather-related complications. The Nighthawks went 1-1 to open the season against No. 21 Point Loma, winning their season-opener 5-4. The Wildcats remained in the Pacific Northwest for opening week and took on British Columbia in Bellingham, Wash., after weather canceled their originally scheduled series against Concordia Irvine in California. Both teams will be in the Golden State this week with NNU set to face Stanislaus State for a three-game series in Turlock, Calif., while CWU takes on Cal State San Bernardino in a four-game series in San Bernardino.

The Nighthawks were led by freshman Carter Walsh in the first week of the season as the Boise, Idaho, native hit .625 (5-8) with a .750 slugging percentage. He was also dangerous while on base, swiping three bases across the two games without being caught once. Spending time at both centerfield and second base to start his Nighthawks career, Walsh posted a perfect 1.000 field percentage while racking up five putouts and four assists. On the mound, redshirt freshman Wade Duncan picked up the first win of his career with two innings of work in relief as he struck out a pair and didn’t allow a hit or walk.

It was a familiar face leading the way for Central Washington in the batter’s box as senior catcher Austin Ohland hit .556 while posting a .778 slugging percentage courtesy of five hits and two doubles to notch two RBIs. Junior Ben Leid also checked in with a .778 slugging percentage and two RBIs after notching a double and a triple against British Columbia. Junior Jonathan Garza II was the top pitcher for CWU on the week, posting a 1.80 ERA through five innings of work to go along with three strikeouts and an opponent batting average of just 0.63 while allowing just one hit and three walks.

BETANCOURT MAKES WAVES IN THE BAY: Montana State Billings went 1-2 against San Francisco State, winning its season opener 6-1 last Saturday behind a strong performance from junior pitcher Jackson Betancourt. The San Diego, Calif., native opened his 2024 campaign with seven innings of work against the Gators and struck out five batters while allowing just one run on six hits to earn the first GNAC Pitcher of the Week honors of the year. Junior infielder Zack Blaszak was the most reliable bat for MSUB last week, starting every game and hitting .556 while notching two RBIs on five hits, and two walks. Sophomore Jack Nehler brought the power to the plate in the Bay, slugging 1.200 with a pair of home runs in the Yellowjackets’ 13-6 loss in the series finale to end the week with five RBIs. Montana State Billings is set to take on Chico State for a three-game series this week.

Player to Watch

Carter Walsh, Northwest Nazarene

A true freshman from Boise, Idaho, Walsh put together an impressive performance in his first two games for the Nighthawks against what figures to be one of the better teams in the country in No. 21 PLNU. Walsh started both games for NNU last week and led the team with a .625 batting average while also slugging .750. Across the weekend, he tallied five hits, including a double, to drive in one run and stole three bases without getting caught once. Walsh was just as impressive on defense where he spent time in the outfield and at second base. Through the two games, he notched five putouts and five assists to go with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. Heading into this week, the Nighthawks will hope Walsh can continue to build upon his strong start as they take on Stanislaus State this week.

Pitcher to Watch

Colin Driscoll, Saint Martin's

A junior righthander from West Linn, Ore., was one of the hottest relievers in the conference on opening week. Through four innings of work against Eastern Oregon last Saturday, Driscoll allowed just one unearned run on three walks. He didn’t allow a single hit to the 11 batters he faced and struck out four of those batters. His four strikeouts currently see him ranked No. 4 in the conference while his 0.75 WHIP leads the league after the first week. The Saints will look to Driscoll to pick up where he left off last week as they make the trip to Hawaii for a packed slate of five games.

GNAC in the National & Regional Rankings

Western Oregon, Northwest Nazarene and Montana State Billings all received votes in the 2024 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association West Region Preseason rankings with the defending champion Wolves leading the way at No. 6. The Nighthawks checked in at No. 9 after finishing runner-up to the WOU in 2023 while The Yellowjackets were outside of the top 10 but among the teams receiving votes.

NCBWA National Rankings
Poll Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4
Preseason -- -- -- --
NCBWA West Region Rankings
Poll Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4
Preseason 6. WOU 9. WWU RV MSUB --


GNAC Baseball in the NCAA Statistical Rankings

Through games on Feb. 7.

Team Rankings (Top-30)

Doubles: 7. SMU, 10
Doubles Per Game: 4. SMU, 3.33; 8. CWU, 3.00
ERA: 13. CWU, 2.81
Fielding Percentage: 15. NNU, .986
Sacrifice Flies: 27. MSUB, 2
Stolen Bases Per Game: 6. NNU, 3.50; 30. SMU, 2.33
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio: 9. NNU, 3.67; 18. MSUB, 2.88
Triples: 11. NNU, 2; 24. CWU, 1
WHIP: 21. NNU, 1.24
Walks Allowed Per Nine Innings: 3. NNU, 1.59; 21. MSUB, 3.13

Individual Rankings (Top-30)

Base On Balls: 25. Austin Schaler, SMU, 5
Base On Balls Per Game: 18. Austin Schaler, SMU, 1.67
Batting Average: 8. Carter Walsh, NNU, .625; 16. Austin Schaler, SMU, .571; 24. Zack Blaszak, MSUB, .556; 24. Austin Ohland, CWU, .556
Doubles Per Game: 3. Austin Ohland, CWU, 1.00
ERA: 1. Colin Driscoll, SMU, 0.00; 1. Wade Duncan, NNU, 0.00
Games Started: 10 Players Tied, 1
Hits Allowed Per Nine Innings: 1. Colin Driscoll, SMU, 0.00; 1. Wade Duncan, NNU, 0.00; 20. Jonathan Garza II, CWU, 1.80
Hits Per Game: 2. Austin Ohland, CWU, 2.50; 2. Carter Walsh, NNU, 2.50; 22. Ben Leid, CWU, 2.00; 22. Bryan Rojas, NNU, 2.00
Home Runs: 16. Jack Nehler, MSUB, 2
Home Runs Per Game: 16. Jack Nehler, MSUB, 0.67
On Base Percentage: 4. Austin Schaler, SMU, .750; 11. Carter Walsh, NNU, .700; 19. Zack Blaszak, MSUB, .667
Sacrifice Bunts: 27. Marcus Mazardo, CWU, 1; 27. Austin Schaler, SMU, 1
Sacrifice Bunts Per Game: 12. Marcus Mazardo, CWU, 0.50
Sacrifice Flies: 16. James Anderson, MSUB, 1; 16. Berk Barnes, MSUB, 1; 16. Casey Wayne, NNU, 1
Slugging Percentage: 11. Jack Nehler, MSUB, 1.200; 17. Austin Schaler, SMU, 1.143
Stolen Bases: 2. Austin Schaler, SMU, 5; 25. Carter Walsh, NNU, 3
Stolen Bases Per Game: 1. Austin Schaler, SMU, 1.67; 4. Carter Walsh, NNU, 1.00; 14. Adam Paganelli, NNU, 1.00; 14. Casey Wayne, NNU, 1.00
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio: 1. Jackson Betancourt, MSUB, 0.00; 1. Wade Duncan, NNU, 0.00; 1. Logan Pierce, CWU, 0.00; 1. Aaron Robertson, CWU, 0.00
Toughest to Strike Out: 1. Jack Nehler, MSUB, 0.0; 1. Carter Walsh, NNU, 0.0; 1. Kailer Saunders, NNU, 0.0
Triples: 6. Cole Calnon, NNU, 1; 6. Ben Leid, CWU, 1; 6. Bryan Rojas, NNU, 1
Triples Per Game: 3. Cole Calnon, NNU, 0.50; 3. Ben Leid, CWU, 0.50; 3. Bryan Rojas, NNU, 0.50
Walks Allowed Per Nine Innings: 1. Jackson Betancourt, MSUB, 0.00; 1. Wade Duncan, NNU, 0.00; Logan Pierce, CWU, 0.00; Aaron Robertson, CWU, 0.00

2024 Baseball Players of the Week
Date Player of the Week
Feb. 5 Austin Schaler, Saint Martin's

Player of the Week - Austin Schaler, Saint Martin's

First-career player of the week – first this season.

Schaler reached base in 9 of 12 plate appearances (.750) and was a sparkplug at the top of the Saints’ lineup on opening weekend. The senior hit .571 (4-for-7) with a double and his first-career home run in the series against Eastern Oregon. Schaler made the most of his time on base, stealing five bases in five attempts. He led all GNAC players in steals, walks drawn (5) and runs scored (4) while racking up an OPS of 1.893.

“That style of play is who he is, and we preach on-base percentage with him being a big tool,” SMU head coach Kelly Gau said on Schaler’s ability as a table setter. “To see him show up week one was big for us. In your first game of your senior season to start with homer and other production is awesome. We are hoping for him to be that type of player all season, and it’s great for him to get off to a good start.”

Also Nominated: Austin Ohland, CWU; Zack Blaszak, MSUB; Carter Walsh, NNU.


2024 Baseball Pitchers of the Week
Date Pitcher of the Week
Feb. 5 Jackson Betancourt, Montana State Billings

Pitcher of the Week - Jackson Betancourt, Montana State Billings

Second-career player of the week – first this season.

Betancourt pitched the Yellowjackets to their first victory of the season on Saturday, throwing seven innings in a 6-1 triumph over San Francisco State. The junior left-hander allowed just one run on six hits, while striking out five and walking none. He led all GNAC pitchers in innings pitched and was second in strikeouts as he got his season off to a stellar start.

Also Nominated: Jonathan Garza II, CWU; Colin Driscoll, SMU.


2024 GNAC Baseball Championships
The 2024 GNAC Baseball Championships will be held May 9-10 at Dehler Park in Billings Mont., and will be hosted by Montana State University Billings. The top three teams in the final GNAC regular-season standings by win percentage will advance to the tournament. The winner of the event will earn the conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA West Region Championships.

Rank Team (1st Place Votes) 2023 GNAC Record (Finish) Points
1. Western Oregon (2) 30-15 20-9 (1st) 21
2. Northwest Nazarene (1) 24-29 17-15 (2nd) 20
T3. Central Washington (1) 22-29 16-15 (3rd) 13
T3. Montana State Billings (1) 21-27 12-18 (4th) 13
5. Saint Martin's 15-29 11-19 (5th) 8

 Points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis.