First GNAC Baseball Title Earns Crusaders Team Of The Week
The Crusaders claimed their first GNAC Baseball Championships title after grabbing a share of their first regular season title this season.
The Crusaders claimed their first GNAC Baseball Championships title after grabbing a share of their first regular season title this season.

Monday, May 16, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore.  – On its home field, the Northwest Nazarene baseball team capped off one its best seasons in program history with its first GNAC Championships trophy, defeating Western Oregon 9-8 in the title game on Friday. The title efforts earned the Crusaders’ Red Lion Team of the Week honors.

“I am so proud of the team and this coaching staff,” said head coach Rocke Musgraves. “A lot of people put a lot into this.”

The Crusaders continued their story as one of the best comeback teams in the GNAC this season, needing back-to-back comeback victories to stay alive in the tournament. Trailing 3-2 in their first elimination game against Montana State Billings, the Crusaders rallied with two runs in the eighth inning and closed out the ball game in the ninth with a 4-3 victory.

The win not only saved the Crusaders from elimination, but it also advanced them to the tournament title game as the No. 1 seed.

Northwest Nazarene faced Western Oregon in the final game of the season. The Wolves had not only defeated the Crusaders 14-3 earlier in the tournament, but they also defeated Northwest Nazarene in the final two games of the 2015 GNAC Championships to take the title.

This time, in front of their home fans, the Crusaders would not be denied their first tournament championship. Falling behind 6-3, Northwest Nazarene exploded for six runs in the sixth inning. GNAC Championships Most Valuable Player Ryan Johnson came through with the biggest hit of the tournament, driving a two-out, full-count pitch to the gap for a bases-clearing double. Second baseman Tyler Davis followed up with a two-run home run, the insurance marker the Crusaders needed to close out the ball game.

“I just wanted to come up in a situation where I had a chance to give us the lead,” said Johnson. “It felt great. He made a little bit of a mistake and I took advantage of it and everyone score.”

Western Oregon scored two runs in the seventh to answer, but the Crusaders held them off in the final two innings to capture their first GNAC tournament title and complete a 30-21 overall season.

“I was looking at some of the statistics and noticed that we were great in one and two run ball games,” said Musgraves. “I knew if we just kept the game close, we would eventually get the timing of some of the great pitchers Western Oregon has.”

It was a season of many firsts for Northwest Nazarene, including their first GNAC baseball regular season title, which they shared with Montana State Billings. In just his third season at the helm, Musgraves led the Crusaders to its best season since joining the GNAC.