Clutch Hits Spark NNU To 1st Place, Team Of The Week Award
Senior second baseman Tyler Davis had a walk-off single in game two to spark the Crusaders three game win streak over Central Washington.
Senior second baseman Tyler Davis had a walk-off single in game two to spark the Crusaders three game win streak over Central Washington.

Monday, March 28, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore.  – In a battle for first place, the Northwest Nazarene baseball team took three out of four games over Central Washington in Nampa, Idaho, earning the GNAC’s Red Lion Team of the Week award.

Central Washington entered the week in first place in the GNAC with an 8-2 record, while the Crusaders were just a game back at 8-4. For the second straight series, Northwest Nazarene dropped the opening game of a four-game series, but then responded with three straight victories to take over the GNAC lead.

“Team of the Week is a bonus for our guys,” said head coach Rocke Musgraves. “They've been putting in the necessary work and it's nice to see them get rewarded. But it's still very early, so we have a long way to go.  There are some parts of our game that we still need to improve.”

After dropping game one 9-3, the Crusaders answered with a 2-1 victory behind another strong start from pitcher Colton Loomis. The senior threw a complete game, his fifth of the season, allowing just one run on four hits with six strikeouts. He advanced his record to 5-2 and lowered his earned run average to 1.32.

The Crusaders needed all seven innings to grab the victory after remaining locked up 1-1 through six and a half innings. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, outfielder Ryan Johnson put himself in scoring position with a double. Catcher Andrew Helmstadter walked to set the table for the No. 3 hitter Tyler Davis. The senior second baseman answered the bell with a walk-off single up the middle, driving in Johnson. Davis also drove in Johnson in the fifth inning for the team’s only other run.

In game three, the offense took away all the drama as they scored nine runs through six innings. First baseman Brady Baker was a double away from the cycle, finishing 3 for 4 with four RBI, two runs scored, a home run and a triple. Starting pitcher Ross Clevenger threw 7.2 shut out innings, striking out seven batters and picking up his second win.

The final game of the series gave Northwest Nazarene a chance to jump into first place to end the week. In a back-and-forth affair, the Crusaders jumped out to a 4-0 lead through two innings. Johnson drove in two runs on a second-inning double to extend the lead to four.

Central Washington responded, however, with five runs in the third and fourth innings to take a 5-4 lead. Shortstop Tucker Campbell tied the ballgame up with a single in the fifth inning and Johnson hit his third double of the game to drive in the eventual game-winning run in the sixth. The senior outfielder and Crusader leadoff hitter was named the GNAC Baseball Player of the Week after finishing 7 for 16 at the dish, with four doubles and five RBI.

“A very good Central Washington club exploited some of our weaknesses, so I felt fortunate that we were able to pitch our way out of some tough spots,” said Musgraves. “We were able to respond to pressure by winning a couple games late, which really built some good positive energy.”

With the series win, Northwest Nazarene sits alone on top of the GNAC with an 11-5 record. They also moved up to No. 8 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association West Region Poll for the first time this season after receiving votes for the last two weeks.

The Crusaders open April on the road at Concordia for a four-game series, beginning on Fri., Apr. 1 at 3 p.m. Pacific time.