First-Team All-Region Trio Leads 11 GNAC NCBWA Honorees
Central Washington's Ben Leid (Left), Northwest Nazarene's Wade Duncan (Center) and Montana State Billings' Kaden Kirshenbaum (Left) lead 11 total GNAC selections to the NCBWA All-Region Team.
Central Washington's Ben Leid (Left), Northwest Nazarene's Wade Duncan (Center) and Montana State Billings' Kaden Kirshenbaum (Left) lead 11 total GNAC selections to the NCBWA All-Region Team.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024
by Thomas Lal

PORTLAND, Ore.  – With two conference trophies handed out over the last two weeks, more hardware is on the way as a trio of first-team honorees lead 11 total GNAC selections to the 2024 National Collegiate Baseball Writer’s Association NCAA Division II West All-Region Team.

The first-team trio is highlighted by unanimous first-team honoree and reigning GNAC Player of the Year Ben Leid of Central Washington. The junior outfielder led the Wildcats to their second straight postseason appearance and finished his season leading the conference in batting average (.425), on-base percentage (.490) and slugging percentage (.680. Leid drove in 46 runs across the season, racking up 13 doubles, three triples and nine home runs in the process.

Montana State Billings’ utility man Kaden Kirshenbaum was also named to the first team this season after earning an honorable mention on the team a season ago. Kirshenbaum received the first-team nod after a season where he hit .299 and drove in 26 runs. He brought plenty of power to the plate for the Yellowjackets, tallying 11 doubles, a triple and 10 home runs while slugging .592.

Northwest Nazarene reliever Wade Duncan was the lone pitcher from the conference named to the all-region first team after racking up nine saves on the season so far to lead the league and tie for 12th in the nation. Duncan’s 2.04 ERA is the second-lowest of any pitcher on the first team. Heading into the NCAA West Regional, the redshirt freshman owns a 6-1 record and has struck out 30 batters through 35.1 innings of work.

Along with the three first-team players, Northwest Nazarene head coach Joe Schaefer was named the 2024 NCBWA Coach of the Year as he guided the Nighthawks to a sweep of the GNAC regular season and tournament titles and the NCAA West Regional with a 36-13-1 record (23-9 GNAC). The record marks the most wins for a single season in program history, while Schaefer picked up his 500th career win as a head coach in the GNAC Championships decider.

Four position players from three different programs were named to the second team. Montana State Billings landed a pair of second-team honorees in first baseman Jack Nehler and outfielder Payton Flynn. Nehler ranked second in the conference with a .397 batting average and a .439 on-base percentage behind only Leid and picked up 30 RBIs on 14 doubles and five home runs. Flynn was another excellent power-hitter for the Yellowjackets, slugging .615 to go along with a .330 batting average while driving in 48 runs on 11 doubles, two triples and a GNAC-leading 14 home runs.

Senior catcher Austin Ohland represents Central Washington on the second team after a season where he drove in 39 runs on 15 doubles and eight home runs. Ohland finished the season with a .353 batting average and a .430 on-base percentage and started all but two games of the season for the Wildcats.

Northwest Nazarene outfielder Trevor Tishenkel earned selection to the all-west second team in a season where he owns a .343 batting average and was a key contributor for the Nighthawks at the GNAC Championships last week. Heading into the start of the NCAA West Regional on Thursday, Tishenkel leads the team with 45 RBIs and has racked up 18 doubles, a triple and 11 home runs.

A pair of Co-GNAC Pitchers of the Year also represent the conference on the second team. Northwest Nazarene’s Kyle Ethridge earned selection after helping the Nighthawks to both GNAC titles with a 5-3 record to go along with a 3.76 ERA and 55 strikeouts through 76.2 innings. Saint Martin’s Colin Driscoll also earned second-team honors as a starter after compiling a 3.17 ERA, and a 5-5 record along with 58 strikeouts in 71 innings of work.

Western Oregon designated hitter AJ Cortese and Northwest Nazarene shortstop Cole Calnon rounded out the all-region selections for the GNAC as honorable mentions. Cortese finished his year hitting .295 with 22 RBIs, 17 doubles, a triple and a home run while Calnon hit .281 and tallied 26 RBIs on nine doubles, three triples and a pair of home runs.

The first-team selections of Leid, Kirshenbaum and Duncan are now eligible to be selected for the NCBWA All-American Team.