Wolves Ride First Series Sweep To Team Of The Week Award
Western Oregon earned the first four-game series sweep of the GNAC baseball season, jumping from fifth to second place in the standings.
Western Oregon earned the first four-game series sweep of the GNAC baseball season, jumping from fifth to second place in the standings.

Monday, April 4, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore.  – In a tight GNAC baseball season, the first series sweep of the year proved to provide a major swing in the standings.

After beginning GNAC play with a 5-8 record, Western Oregon was in need of a momentum swing at the halfway point of the season. The Wolves entered a four-game series on the road at Central Washington, a team that sat in first or second place all season and headed home with four wins under their belts. The sweep earned Western Oregon the GNAC’s Red Lion Team of the Week award.

“Our entire roster, along with coaches, have talked a lot about putting together an entire weekend from a competitive standpoint,” said head coach Kellen Walker.  “When you are willing to invest the effort that it takes to consistently get after it for an entire weekend, you give yourself a chance to be successful.  We will see if we can invest that effort again this weekend against another good team in Concordia.”

Despite the Wolves’ early season struggles, they have been consistent in game ones in GNAC play. They moved to 5-0 in series openers against conference opponents this season, with a 9-8 victory over the Wildcats. Sophomore Brady Miller has made it easy for the offense in his starts, but this time it was the bats that helped give him his sixth victory of the season. Miller pitched six innings with five runs allowed, just one earned, with no walks and six strikeouts. His season earned run average remains at a miniscule 0.81 in 44.2 innings pitched.

The offense burst out with four home runs, led by two by first baseman Nathan Etheridge. Catcher Brandon Oliver went 3 for 5 with a home run, two runs batted in and two runs scored. Outfielder Cody Sullivan hit his team-leading fourth home run.

Coming into the second game of the doubleheader, the Wolves were 0-4 in the second games of a GNAC series. That all changed behind a strong pitching performance from starting pitcher Garrett Alvarez, who threw a seven-inning complete game. He allowed just one run on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts, moving his record to 4-0. Offensively, the Wolves took the lead in the sixth inning with three runs, highlighted by a two-RBI double by Nick Snyder in a pinch hit situation, as Western Oregon won 4-1.

“We have been getting good starts out of pitchers in seven-inning games but have had our struggles offensively,” said Walker. “Alvarez and Steindorf again gave us starts to keep us in the game and we were a little more competitive at the plate compared to where we have been in other parts of our season in the seven-inning games.  In game two of the series Nick Snyder helped us out coming off the bench with a two out double to give us the lead.”

In game three, the Wolves looked to grab their first series win of the GNAC season. Snyder opened the scoring in the first inning with a three-run home run, and the Wolves never looked back taking a 9-5 win. Pitcher Darrien Moran advanced to 2-3 on the season, throwing seven innings with four earned runs allowed and seven strike outs. Jacob Fricke threw two shutout innings in relief.

With the series already in hand, the Wolves entered game four with a chance at the first GNAC series sweep of the season. Pitcher Gary Steindorf was given a two-run lead in the first inning after RBIs by Snyder and Sullivan, as the Wolves cruised to an 8-0 victory. Steindorf threw a seven-inning shutout, allowing just three hits with three walks and five strikeouts.

“It is extremely tough to win four games in a weekend in this conference,” said Walker. “Central Washington puts pressure on you at the plate and has quality arms.  We got four good starts on the mound and were able to get on the scoreboard more consistently than we had been in previous weeks.  Fricke and Elias Bedolla did a great job coming in out of the pen and holding on to some leads in close ballgames.”

Western Oregon jumped from fifth place to second place with a 9-8 conference record in a close GNAC race. The pitching staff leads the conference in ERA at 2.94, over a run lower than the next best team. With the sweep, the Wolves also reentered the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association West Region Poll at No. 10

The second half of the season opens this weekend as the Wolves host Concordia beginning on Sat., Apr. 9. Western Oregon is yet to play a game on their home field this season due to weather and field conditions.