WOU Secures Postseason Berth, Named Team of Week
WOU starter Eric Huson has been one of the top pitchers in the GNAC all season, and most recently contributed eight outstanding innings towards the Wolves' 4-0 series sweep last week.
WOU starter Eric Huson has been one of the top pitchers in the GNAC all season, and most recently contributed eight outstanding innings towards the Wolves' 4-0 series sweep last week.

Monday, April 21, 2014
by Evan O'Kelly, Media Relations Assistant

PORTLAND, Ore. – Clark McKitrick entered Friday’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference baseball game in the fourth inning, with his Western Oregon Wolves leading Northwest Nazarene 3-2. The junior left-handed pitcher inherited a bases loaded jam and was called upon to stifle any chance of a Crusader rally, and he did just that with a crucial strikeout to preserve WOU’s lead. 

The eventual 5-3 win for Western Oregon proved to be the closest of its four victories last week, as the Wolves sealed a GNAC postseason berth with a 4-0 series sweep over the Crusaders. McKitrick’s excellent performance in the clutch earned him GNAC Pitcher of the Week, and helped the Wolves earn GNAC Team of the Week honors.

“It really took our whole pitching staff, and we had some big spots and guys who came in out of the bullpen to get the ball to the next guy,” WOU head coach Kellen Walker commented on the series. “We definitely want to be playing our best baseball towards the end of the season, and guys are really starting to get comfortable in their roles which will help us to be successful.”

Finding his role offensively over the weekend was third baseman Garret Harpole, who hinted at his potential with a fourth-inning home run in Game 2 that gave the Wolves a 3-1 lead. Harpole caught fire in the final doubleheader of the series, batting 6-for-9 with six RBI and five runs scored on Saturday.

“He is continuing to find his strengths as a hitter and finding an approach at the plate to help him stay consistent,” Walker said of Harpole, who finished the series with two home runs and four doubles. “It was good to see him have a big weekend for us and we are hoping he can continue putting quality at bats together.” 

Despite falling behind 1-0 in the second inning of Game 1, WOU quickly set the tone with a four-run third, a nine-run seventh and a six-run eighth. The Wolves capitalized with 19 runs on 18 hits in the 19-7 triumph, and Daniel McNabb led the charge with a line of 3-for-6 with five RBI. 

WOU anticipated running into the buzz saw this season that has been NNU starter Aaron Vaughn in Game 2, who leads the GNAC with six complete games and 66 strikeouts.

Vaughn was his usual dominant self with eight strikeouts and zero walks over his 6 1/3 innings, but WOU took advantage of timely base hits and three NNU errors.

“Vaughn is one of the best arms in the conference, and he definitely threw well against us,” Walker said regarding NNU’s ace. “We had a good approach against him, grinded out some at bats and got some hits when we needed them.”

WOU followed a series-long trend by falling behind 1-0 for the third straight game in Game 3, but the Wolves carried over their momentum from the Day 1 doubleheader sweep. WOU posted a big five-run second inning and never looked back, cruising to a 12-1 victory in Game 3.

Wolf starter Eric Huson tossed eight magnificent innings, striking out four and allowing just one earned run, two walks and five hits.

“We got some good outings from our starters, and we had guys who got out there and were able to trust the guy who was coming after them,” Walker commented on the effort of his starters.

WOU also benefitted from four home runs in Game 3, as Matt Taylor, Tim Rausch and Nathan Etheridge joined Harpole with long balls of their own.

Closing the series by establishing a 5-0 lead early on in the finale, WOU finished the sweep with an 8-4 triumph in Game 4 to remain atop the GNAC standings.

“NNU has a good club and that is a tough yard to play in,” Walker commented on the long road trip to Nampa, Idaho. “It was a really good effort by our guys, and it really took the whole club to get it done.”

With one more GNAC series to play in the 2014 regular season, Western Oregon can clinch hosting rights to the GNAC Championships with two more victories in its final two conference games.

WOU is set to host Saint Martin’s this weekend in Monmouth, after the Saints picked up a crucial 3-1 series win over Montana State Billings to remain in contention for a GNAC postseason berth.

“This next series is a big one for us,” Walker said. “Central Washington is right behind us, and Saint Martin’s just took a series from Billings so they are playing their best baseball of the season as well. We need to have a good week of preparation starting Monday so we will be ready to go against SMU.”