Busy Weekend On The Diamond Awaits GNAC Baseball
Central Washington is one of three GNAC teams that will spend this week on the road as it faces Stanislaus State for a four-game series in Turlock, Calif.
Central Washington is one of three GNAC teams that will spend this week on the road as it faces Stanislaus State for a four-game series in Turlock, Calif.

Friday, February 16, 2024
by Thomas Lal

PORTLAND, Ore. – The second week of baseball action saw a little bit of everything, from a nationally recognized performance on the mound to an eight-inning tie and of course a healthy dose of weather-related shenanigans.

Northwest Nazarene has opened the season strongest and paces the GNAC field with a .700 winning percentage heading into the third week on the diamond. Both the Nighthawks and Western Oregon will host their first home games of the season this week while Central Washington, Montana State Billings and Saint Martin’s all remain on the road. After a few games early in the week, the majority of the action is set to take place from Friday to Sunday.


GNAC Baseball Schedule - Feb. 16-18
Opponent(s) Location(s)
CWU Stanislaus State Turlock, CA
MSUB #9 Colorado Mesa Grand Junction, CO
NNU College of Idaho Caldwell/Nampa, ID
SMU Bushnell, Pacific Luthern Tacoma, WA
WOU Eastern Oregon Monmouth, OR

View the complete 2024 GNAC baseball schedule online here.

This Week's Storylines

RAIN RAIN GO AWAY: Inclement weather continues to play a role in scheduling with several teams making changes to their non-conference slate. With game dates/times subject to change, be sure to check in at GNACSports.com to stay up to date with the latest information.

TAKING IT TO TURLOCK: Northwest Nazarene (3-1-1) put together an undefeated week last time out, shutting out Stanislaus State 4-0 to open its series against the Warriors last Friday before completing the doubleheader with a 7-3 win. The series concluded on Saturday with a rare 12-12 tie after the game was called early due to NNU’s travel schedule. The Nighthawks will be back in action this week as they face in-state rival College of Idaho in a pair of doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday that will be split between Caldwell, Idaho, and Nampa.

Senior pitcher Jonathan Zayas earned national attention for his starting role in NNU’s shutout win over the Warriors on Friday, earning selection as the GNAC Pitcher of the Week, NCBWA West Region Pitcher of the Week and NCBWA National Pitcher of the Week. Zayas threw seven innings in the win, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out nine batters on 95 pitches. The honor marked the first time that a GNAC player received a national weekly award from the NCBWA since 2021. On the season, Zayas ranks sixth in the conference with a 2.25 ERA and is tied for second in the GNAC with 12 strikeouts through two starts.

After missing a chunk of the early schedule a year ago, senior infielder Duke Pahukoa hasn’t missed a beat to start the 2024 season. Pahukoa ranks second on the team with a .400 batting average while also leading the team and ranking third in the GNAC with a .667 slugging percentage. In addition to his reliability and his power at the plate, Pahukoa is tied for third in the GNAC with five RBIs in the young season.

PITCHER’S PARADISE: Saint Martin’s junior pitcher Colin Driscoll has been a bright spot for the Saints as they’ve gone 1-6 during their Hawaii road trip. Driscoll helped author SMU’s lone win last week, a 5-4 victory over Chaminade. Through 8.1 innings of work, he struck out 12 batters to tie the program record while allowing three runs on two hits and four walks. Through his first two starts of the season, Driscoll leads the Saints and the GNAC with a 1.46 ERA and has held opponents to a 0.51 batting average in 12.1 innings of work.

Junior outfielder Damon Ingram has been one of the leading bats for the SMU offense to start the year, batting .304 and slugging over .500 while leading the team with five RBIs. Ingram has started six of the Saints’ seven games this season, and is tied for 12th in the GNAC with 12 total bases. Saint Martin’s will be back in Washington this week as it faces Bushnell and Pacific Lutheran in Tacoma, Wash., on Sunday.

SLUGGING MY WAY DOWNTOWN: Montana State Billings (1-5) leads the league in slugging after two weeks with a .366 percentage. Reigning GNAC Player of the Week Jack Nehler has led the Yellowjackets’ effort at the plate through their California road trip, pacing the conference with a .900 slugging percentage courtesy of two home runs and three doubles in 20 at-bats. The result has been a GNAC-leading seven RBIs to go along with a .450 batting average that ranks fourth in the conference.

On the mound, junior left-hander Jackson Betancourt leads the team and is tied for second in the conference with a 1.50 ERA through 12 innings of work. Betancourt is among just three GNAC pitchers to throw 12 or more innings through the first two weeks of the season and is holding opponents to a .261 batting average. Montana State Billings will be back in mountain time this week as it hits the road to face No. 11 Colorado Mesa in Grand Junction, Colo., for a four-game series that should stand as the Yellowjackets’ biggest test of the young season so far.

CALIFORNIA DREAMING ON SUCH A WINTER’S DAY: Central Washington (2-4) will remain in the Golden State this week after splitting its series against then No. 5 Cal State San Bernardino last time out. The Wildcats went the distance in a 4-2 10-inning win to open the series last Thursday for their first win of the season. The Yotes came back to take the first half of Friday’s doubleheader, 6-3, before CWU shut out the home team 3-0 to end the day. Cal State San Bernardino took the final game of the series 8-4.

The Wildcats will be in Turlock this week as they face Stanislaus State for another four-game series with games set for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Central Washington will look to senior outfielder Kevin “Baba” Varner Jr. to maintain his strong start to the season at the plate. Through the first six games of the year, Varner Jr. leads the team with a .367 batting average and a .737 slugging percentage. He is the only Wildcat with multiple home runs so far and has tallied three RBIs. On the mound, senior left-hander Alex Brady will also be aiming to keep his hot hand as he leads the team with a 1.93 ERA through his first two starts. Though Brady has yet to earn a decision this season, the veteran pitcher has thrown 9.1 innings, striking out 12 batters and allowing just two earned runs.


Player to Watch

Kevin "Baba" Varner Jr., Central Washington

A senior outfielder from Wailuku, Hawaii, Varner Jr. has gotten off to a strong start in his second season for the Wildcats. He leads the team and ranks seventh in the conference with a .368 batting average and is one of just two players in the league with multiple home runs this season. Along with his bat-to-ball skills, Varner Jr. has shown patience in the batter’s box, drawing four walks to tie for second in the GNAC.  He turned in one of his best performances of the young season last Saturday against Cal State San Bernardino, going 3 for 4 at the plate with three RBIs on two home runs and a double.

Pitcher to Watch

Kyle Ethridge, Northwest Nazarene

A senior left-hander from Alta Loma, Calif., Ethridge will aim to maintain his strong form as the Nighthawks play their first games in Idaho this year. In his lone start of the season thus far, Ethridge has compiled a 1.50 ERA while striking out six batters and allowing just two extra-base hits in six innings of work. That performance came in NNU’s 7-3 win over Stanislaus State last Friday. Ethridge is also tied for the league lead and 26th in Division II with a 0.57 WHIP.

GNAC in the National & Regional Rankings

Northwest Nazarene moved up to No. 4 in the NCBWA West Region rankings after going undefeated in three games at Stanislaus State week. The Nighthawks picked up a pair of wins to open the series, a 4-0 shutout win in Friday’s opener and a 7-3 decision to close out the day. The final game of the series ended in a rare 12-12 tie due to Northwest Nazarene’s travel schedule.

NCBWA National Rankings
Poll Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4
Preseason -- -- -- --
Feb. 14 -- -- -- --
NCBWA West Region Rankings
Poll Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4
Preseason 6. WOU 9. WWU RV MSUB --
Feb. 12 4. NNU -- -- --


GNAC Baseball in the NCAA Statistical Rankings

Through games on Feb. 14.

Team Rankings (Top-30)
Double Plays: 6. MSUB, 9
Double Plays Per Game: 6. MSUB, 1.50; 16. NNU, 1.00; 16. WOU, 1.00
ERA: 17. CWU, 3.12
Hit Batters: 7. SMU, 19
Sacrifice Flies: 25. MSUB, 4
Shutouts: 6. CWU, 1; 6. NNU, 1
Stolen Bases Per Game: 29. NNU, 2.40
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio: 8. NNU, 3.67
Strikeouts Per Nine Innings: 21. WOU, 10.3
Triples: 26. NNU, 2; 26. WOU, 2
Triples Per Game: 14. WOU, 0.50; 27. NNU, 0.40
WHIP: 13. NNU, 1.14
Walks Allowed Per Nine Innings: 4. NNU, 1.88

Individual Rankings (Top-30)
Doubles: 18. Austin Ohland, CWU, 4
Games Started: 6. Eight Players Tied, 2
Hit Batters: 12. Isaiah Mayfield-Prieto, SMU, 4; 12. Aaron Nease, SMU, 4
Hits Allowed Per Nine Innings: 6. Colin Driscoll, SMU, 1.46
Sacrifice Bunts: 11. Austin Schaler, SMU, 2
Stolen Bases: 11. Carter Walsh, NNU, 6; 25. Austin Schaler, SMU, 5
Stolen Bases Per Game: 10. Carter Walsh, NNU, 1.20
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio: 1. Kyle Ethridge, NNU, 0.00
Strikeouts: 7. Colin Driscoll, SMU, 16
Strikeouts Per Nine Innings: 2. Owen Murdock, WOU, 19.80
Toughest to Strikeout: 1. Kailer Saunders, NNU, 0.0
Triples: 19. Seven Players Tied, 1
Triples Per Game: 8. Randy Stultz, WOU, 0.33; 24. Curran Mitzel, WOU, 0.25
WHIP: 26. Kyle Ethridge, NNU, 0.57; 26. Jonathan Zayas, NNU, 0.57
Walks Allowed Per Nine Innings: 1. Kyle Ethridge, NNU, 0.00
2024 Baseball Players of the Week
Date Player of the Week
Feb. 5 Austin Schaler, Saint Martin's
Feb. 12 Jack Nehler, Montana State Billings

Player of the Week - Jack Nehler, Montana State Billings

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

Nehler slugged his way to the weekly honor, leading all GNAC players with six RBIs, eight hits and a pair of home runs. Both of Nehler’s long balls came in a 3-for-4 performance at San Francisco State, and he added one of his two doubles on the week. Nehler ranked second among GNAC players in hitting (.571), second in slugging (1.143) and fourth in on-base percentage (.533) in last week’s games.

Also Nominated: Ben Leid, CWU; Duke Pahukoa, NNU; Jonathan Shimabukuro, SMU; Zach Valdez, WOU.

2024 Baseball Pitchers of the Week
Date Pitcher of the Week
Feb. 5 Jackson Betancourt, Montana State Billings
Feb. 12 Jonathan Zayas, Northwest Nazarene

Pitcher of the Week - Jonathan Zayas, Northwest Nazarene

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

Zayas was nearly untouchable in the Nighthawks’ 4-0 shutout of Stanislaus State, authoring seven brilliant innings to propel the Nighthawks to a win. The left-hander allowed just one hit and one walk, while striking out nine batters and keeping the Warriors’ offense silent. The second-year Nighthawk matched his NNU career highs in both innings pitched and strikeouts, and it was his first shutout performance in a starting role.

Also Nominated: Reid Rasmussen, CWU; Jake Finkelstein, MSUB; 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.