Regular Season Champ Nighthawks Earn Team Of The Week
Northwest Nazarene earned GNAC Team of the Week honors after taking three of four games from Central Washington in Nampa to win its third conference regular season title in four years.
Northwest Nazarene earned GNAC Team of the Week honors after taking three of four games from Central Washington in Nampa to win its third conference regular season title in four years.

Monday, May 6, 2024
by Thomas Lal

PORTLAND, Ore.  – The Nighthawks rule the roost as the 2024 conference regular season baseball champion after Northwest Nazarene took three of four games from Central Washington to secure its third title in four years and earn GNAC Team of the Week honors.

Northwest Nazarene (32-12-1, 23-9 GNAC) clinched its third title in program history with a 3-1 week against the Wildcats in Nampa, sealing the deal with one day to spare in the regular season. The Nighthawks won the first three games of the series in convincing fashion, allowing just three runs across the trio of contests.

“Our guys knew what was on the line going into the series,” head coach Joe Schaefer said. “They did a great job preparing throughout the week and not allowing finals or upcoming graduation to distract them. They played very well this series, and I’m really proud of their performance - not just this week but all season long. Winning the GNAC regular season title is a huge accomplishment, and hopefully they can take some momentum into the tournament this week.”

The Nighthawks won the first game of the series 13-1 behind a dominant performance by GNAC Pitcher of the Week Kyle Ethridge. The senior left-hander came out of the gates hot as he retired the first 16 Wildcats that he faced and didn’t allow a hit until the seventh inning. Ethridge earned the win after finishing out the seventh inning with just one run allowed on three hits while striking out four to improve to 5-3 on the season and bring his ERA to 3.62 on the year.

The bulk of NNU’s offensive output in the series opener came from the heart of the order in the form of GNAC Player of the Week Adam Paganelli and Trevor Tishenkel. Paganelli opened his week by going 2-for-4 at the plate while racking up four RBIs and one run scored, including a two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth. Tishenkel went 3-for-5 while driving in two runs of his own and coming across to score once. Cole Calnon was another key player for NNU as he went 4-for-5 and drove in three runs while scoring three times and stealing a base.

The Nighthawks sealed up the regular season title with a 4-1 win over Central Washington to cap off Thursday’s doubleheader, scoring all four of their runs in the first inning. Northwest Nazarene used an error by CWU to capitalize on a one-out walk and a two-out single to score its first run of the day with Bryan Rojas coming around to score. Duke Pahukoa cleared the bases in the next at-bat on the first pitch he saw for a three-run shot that was his eighth home run of the season.

Kailer Saunders earned the win on the mound, throwing 4.1 innings while allowing one run on six hits and striking out one to move to 5-2 on the season with a 5.33 ERA. Wade Duncan closed out the game in the seventh frame and retired all three batters he faced without allowing anything to leave the infield to record his conference-leading eighth save of the season.

Northwest Nazarene won the first half of Friday’s doubleheader 8-1 after notching multiple runs in the first inning once again. Rojas drove in the opening run with an RBI single to bring Carter Walsh around to score and finished the game 2-for-5 at the plate. Tishenkel brought Rojas around to score himself later in the inning with a one-out double after Rojas stole second. Tishenkel finished the game 3-for-4 and scored one run of his own on a Paganelli home run in the bottom of the third inning. Paganelli brought the bulk of the production for NNU, going 2-for-4 with four RBIs and two runs scored on a pair of two-run homers.

With the regular season title in hand, Northwest Nazarene will now turn its attention to the GNAC Baseball Championships in Billings, Mont., this week. The No. 1 seeded Nighthawks will face No. 3 seed Central Washington on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. (Mountain) to start their tournament and will face No. 2 seed Western Oregon at 7:00 p.m. (Mountain) to end the day.