Focus Shifts To GNAC Championships Push
Western Oregon's Victoria Zimmerman leads the GNAC with a .397 batting average.
Western Oregon's Victoria Zimmerman leads the GNAC with a .397 batting average.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024
by Evan O'Kelly, Assistant Commissioner For Communications

PORTLAND, Ore. – All scheduled non-conference games have been completed for the Great Northwest Athletic Conference softball teams, who now shift their focus to the month-long push towards the 2024 postseason.

Three conference series are set for this weekend, with Central Washington (10-19, 5-3) visiting No. 22 Northwest Nazarene (23-6, 6-2 GNAC), Simon Fraser (5-21, 0-8) playing host to Western Oregon (15-12, 3-1) and conference-leading Saint Martin’s (16-11, 7-1) playing at No. 13 Western Washington (22-4, 2-2). Montana State Billings (8-23-1, 1-7) is off this week.

GNAC Softball Schedule - March 29-30
Home Team Opponent Start Times
#22 Northwest Nazarene Central Washington Friday (2 p.m. MT)/Saturday (Noon MT)
Simon Fraser Western Oregon Friday (3 p.m. PT)/Saturday (Noon PT)
#13 Western Washington Saint Martin's Friday (Noon PT)/Saturday (Noon PT)
2024 GNAC Softball Championships

The 2024 GNAC Softball Championships will be played May 2-4 at Viking Field on the campus of Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash. The four-team double-elimination tournament will determine the recipient of the conference's automatic berth in the NCAA Championships. The top-four teams in the final GNAC regular-season standings earn berths into the conference tournament.

This Week's Storylines

SAINTS IN FIRST, FACE BIG UPCOMING TEST: The Saints enter this week in first place after sweeping Simon Fraser and grabbing 3 of 4 games from Central Washington in their first two conference series of the season. SMU will face a mighty test over the next three weeks, playing at the conference’s top-ranked team in WWU this weekend, at third-place Western Oregon next weekend and then hosting No. 22 Northwest Nazarene to close out a tough 12-game stretch.

Ashley Goodale leads the Saints in hitting at .392, while Heather Ebner has been the team’s top producer with 24 RBIs to go along with a .343 batting average. Goodale ranks second in the conference in both hitting and on-base percentage (.473). In the circle Chloe Leverington ranks first nationally with six saves, and second in the conference with nine victories across her 23 appearances. The right-hander is also second in the GNAC with 85 strikeouts this spring and holds a 2.39 ERA.

VIKINGS PERFECT IN GOLDEN STATE: For the third time this season, Western Washington swept through a tournament in California as it emerged with a perfect 5-0 record at the Tournament of Champions in Turlock. WWU went 16-0 this season in its scheduled games in the Golden State, after winning both the Concordia Irvine Kickoff Classic on Feb. 2-4 and the North Bay Challenge on Feb. 8-10.

After a bye and a 2-2 series split with Northwest Nazarene to start their conference schedule, the Vikings will get to work on ascending the league standings beginning with this weekend’s home showdown with the Saints. Featuring one of the nation’s top pitching staffs, WWU enters the week ranking 10th in Division II in team ERA (1.62) and 12th in Division II in WHIP (1.05). The trio of Kaiana Kong (6-1, 0.97), Alli Kimball (8-2, 1.38) and Joie Baker (8-1, 2.13) has combined to throw every inning of the season thus far, with WWU posting a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.17 and holding the opposition to a batting average of .218. Kimball just picked up Tournament of Champions MVP honors, after allowing zero runs across 19 dominant innings pitched last weekend.

Offensively, reigning GNAC Freshman of the Year Hailey Rath leads the team with a .364 batting average, while reaching base at a clip of .398 and slugging .568. Emma Andrewjeski-Ramirez leads the team and ranks second in the conference with nine home runs and 24 RBIs, and Ashley Jacobson is batting .350 with five long balls and 17 runs driven in.

NIGHTHAWKS SET TO HOST ‘CATS: After going 5-2 on its trip to California, Northwest Nazarene is set to host Central Washington in a four-game series at Halle Field kicking off Friday at 2 p.m. (MT). NNU swept CWU in a four-game, non-conference series on Feb. 23-24, a series in which the Nighthawks allowed just three runs. NNU’s elite pitching staff ranks eighth nationally in ERA (1.58) and seventh nationally in WHIP (1.02), while holding opposing hitters to a batting average of .210.

Sidney Booth leads the GNAC with 90 strikeouts, while carrying a 1.19 ERA across her 18 appearances this spring. The senior is also a threat at the plate, batting .301 with three home runs and 20 RBIs. Emma Bumatay leads the team with six home runs and 24 RBIs, while Abigail Gagnon (.328) and Clarissa Moreno (.326) are two of the team’s other top hitters.

The Wildcats are led offensively by senior Alyssa Benthagen, who is batting .337 with two home runs on the season. In the circle, Ashlee Laver has been the top arm for CWU as she holds a 2.89 ERA with 48 strikeouts across 84 innings of work this spring.

RED LEAFS FINALLY AT HOME: After playing their first 26 games of the season on the road, Simon Fraser finally kicks off its home schedule with a four-game set against Western Oregon starting on Friday at 3 p.m. (PT). The Red Leafs will play all 12 of their home games in succession, as they will host Western Washington next week and Montana State Billings on April 19-20 in Burnaby, B.C.

SFU relies on a quartet of .300 hitters offensively, with Kristen Davyduke leading the unit with a .338 batting average. Cassidy Affeldt has a team-leading three home runs, and Abby McGlynn is batting .320 with seven doubles. The league’s premiere base stealer is Megan Duclos, who is batting .333 with a team-leading 18 runs scored and is 17-for-19 in stolen base attempts this spring. Duclos enters this week tied for third in GNAC history with 75 career stolen bases.

GNAC Career Stolen Base Leaders (as of March 26, 2024)
Rank Player School SB Career
1 Andrea Williams Humboldt State 86 2001-04
2 Savannah Egbert Central Washington 77 2017-19
3 Cassidy Fifield Northwest Nazarene 75 2016-19
  Megan Duclos Simon Fraser 75 2020, 22-24
5 Jessi Williams Western Washington 74 2000-03
6 Rachael Johnson Central Washington 71 2016-19
7 Ivy Hommel Northwest Nazarene 69 2018-22
8 Kylee VAnderbout Saint Martin's 65 2019-22
9 Autumn Isaacson Western Washington 64 2014-15
10 Heather Tracy Montana State Billings 61 2015-18

Western Oregon’s duo of Alivia Holden (1.24 ERA) and Mackenzee Collins (1.40 ERA) has proven to be one of the best in the conference, as they have combined to throw 135 2/3 of the team’s 178 1/3 innings on the season. Collins ranks second in the GNAC with 88 strikeouts in her 85 innings of work, and has authored nine complete games. Holden meanwhile has allowed the opposition to hit just .168, a figure that ranks second in the league only to NNU’s Booth. Offensively, the Wolves are led by Victoria Zimmerman who is hitting .397 and reaching base at a clip of .500. Natalie Willoughby leads the team with four home runs and 16 RBIs, and Bella Valdes is 12-for-13 in stolen base attempts this spring.

GNAC Softball In The Rankings

The National Fastpitch Coaches Association releases its national rankings every at noon (ET) on every Tuesday throughout the season, beginning on Feb. 13. The 2024 preseason coaches poll was released on Jan. 23.

The Vikings continued their ascent in the latest national rankings, rising to their highest spot of the season at No. 13. Northwest Nazarene remained in the top-25, falling to No. 22 down six spots from last week.

NFCA National Rankings
Poll Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4
Preseason 25. NNU -- -- --
Week 1 - 2/13 18. WWU 24. NNU -- --
Week 2 - 2/20 16. WWU 24. NNU -- --
Week 3 - 2/27 16. WWU 22. NNU -- --
Week 4 - 3/5 14. WWU 21. NNU -- --
Week 5 - 3/12 15. WWU 18. NNU -- --
Week 6 - 3/19 14. WWU 16. NNU -- --
Week 7 - 3/26 13. WWU 22. NNU -- --
GNAC Softball In The NCAA Statistical Rankings

Through games March 25, 2024.

Team Leaders (Top-30)
Double Plays: 26. MSUB, 12
Double Plays/Game: 28. WWU, 0.42
ERA: 8. NNU, 1.58; 10. WWU, 1.62; 28. WOU, 2.08
Fewest Hit Batters: 22. WOU, 5
Hit By Pitch: 29. SMU, 25
Home Runs: 23. MSUB, 34
Home Runs/Game: 27. MSUB, 1.06
Shutouts: 13. NNU, 9
Strikeout/Walk Ratio: 23. WWU, 3.17
Sacrifice Bunts: 16. WOU, 29
Sacrifice Flies: 20. NNU, 12
WHIP: 7. NNU, 1.02; 12. WWU, 1.05
Win/Loss %: 9. WWU, .846; 19. NNU, .793
Individual Leaders (Top-50)
Complete Games: 9. Caitlyn James, MSUB, 12; 40. Sidney Booth, NNU, 10
ERA: 20. Kaiana Kong, WWU, 0.97; 33. Sidney Booth, NNU, 1.19; 40. Alivia Holden, WOU, 1.24; 48. Alli Kimball, WWU, 1.38; 50. Mackenzee Collins, WOU, 1.40
Starts: 21. Caitlyn James, MSUB, 16; 39. Tia Ridings, SMU, 15; 39. Joie Baker, WWU, 15; 39. Sidney Booth, NNU, 15
Fewest Hit Batters: 1. Mackenzee Collins, WOU, 1; 1. Caitlyn James, MSUB, 1
Hit By Pitch: 24. Shelby Lawson, SMU, 8
HBP/Game: 23. Shelby Lawson, SMU, 0.30
Fewest Hits/7 Inn.: 11. Sidney Booth, NNU, 3.99; 17. Alivia Holden, WOU, 4.28
Home Runs: 13. Teagan Seeton, MSUB, 11; 27. Emma Andrewjeski-Ramirez, WWU, 9
HR/Game: 19. Emma Andrewjeski-Ramirez, WWU, 0.36; 27. Teagan Seeton, MSUB, 0.34
Appearances: 2. Caitlyn James, MSUB, 26; 12. Chloe Leverington, SMU, 23
Sacrifice Flies: 37. Hailey Rath, WWU, 3; 37. Emma Bumatay, NNU, 3
Saves: 1. Chloe Leverington, SMU, 6; 5. Kaiana Kong, WWU, 3; 22. Mackenzee Collins, WOU, 2
Shutouts: 8. Sidney Booth, NNU, 5
Stolen Bases: 45. Megan Duclos, SFU, 17
Stolen Bases/Game: 28. Megan Duclos, SFU, 0.71
Strikeout/Walk Ratio: 29. Chloe Leverington, SMU, 6.54; 35. Alli Kimball, WWU, 5.83
Strikeouts: 48. Sidney Booth, NNU, 90
Strikeouts/7 Inn.: 48. Chloe Leverington, SMU, 8.1
Triples: 48. Sydney Conklin, WOU, 3
Triples/Game: 47. Sydney Conklin, WOU, 0.13
Wins: 4. Sidney Booth, NNU, 15
WHIP: 14. Sidney Booth, NNU, 0.80; 27. Gina Skinner, NNU, 0.91; 44. Kaiana Kong, WWU, 1.13
BB/7 Inn.: 15. Alli Kimball, WWU, 0.69; 27. Gina Skinner, NNU, 0.91; 44. Kaiana Kong, WWU, 1.13
2024 GNAC Softball Players of the Week
Date Player of the Week Pitcher of the Week
2/5 Cassidy Affeldt, Simon Fraser Sidney Booth, Northwest Nazarene
2/12 Emma Andrewjeski, Western Washington Chloe Leverington, Saint Martin's
2/19 Laney Kaysner, Central Washington Ashlee Laver, Central Washington
2/26 Abigail Gagnon, Northwest Nazarene Sidney Booth, Northwest Nazarene
3/4 Emma Bumatay, Northwest Nazarene Kaiana Kong, Western Washington
3/11 Teagan Seeton, Montana State Billings Mackenzee Collins, Western Oregon
3/18 Alyssa Benthagen, Central Washington Gina Skinner, Northwest Nazarene
3/25 Hailey Rath, Western Washington Alli Kimball, Western Washington

March 25 GNAC Softball Players of the Week

Player of the Week – Hailey Rath, Western Washington

First-career player of the week.

Rath helped pilot the Vikings to a perfect performance at the Tournament of Champions, as she had a GNAC-leading seven hits in the team’s 5-0 weekend in California. Rath had at least one hit in all five games, including a pair of doubles and her third home run of the season. In the Vikings’ 9-2 triumph over Cal State San Bernardino, Rath had a career-high four RBIs thanks to a double and a home run. Rath bumped her season batting average up to .364, and she has started all 26 of WWU’s games this spring.

“She works harder than anyone I’ve ever seen, and she plays the game with so much joy and love,” said WWU head coach Sheryl Gilmore. “It’s no wonder she finds success, and it’s contagious being around her. It was great to see her get back to being herself. We could see her relax up there, settle in and enjoy the moment in front of her. The cornerstone of our program is pitching and defense, and as a shortstop you’re out there leading the defense. For her to step up in the way she has is huge – she invests in her preparation and knows where she needs to be for each hitter. She anticipates the game well and does a great job helping the defense control the game.”

Also Nominated: Alyssa Benthagen, CWU; Payton Meyer, MSUB; Kristen Davyduke, SFU; Maddie Doig, WOU.

Pitcher of the Week – Alli Kimball, Western Washington

First-career pitcher of the week.

Kimball helped lead the Vikings to a 5-0 record at the Tournament of Champions, putting together three dominant performances in the circle. Across her 19 innings pitched, Kimball allowed zero runs, nine hits and just one walk. She chipped in nine strikeouts, and was one off her season high with five in the team’s 2-0 triumph over San Francisco State in the tournament finale. Kimball earned the victory in all three of her outings, posting a WHIP of 0.53 on the week. The shutouts were the first two of her collegiate career.

“She’s very consistent in her poise and composure in the circle,” Gilmore said of the freshman. “She has been that way from the beginning, no matter the opponent or the situation. She doesn’t let the moment get too big, and focuses on winning the moment in front of her. That is especially rare in a freshman. She also does a great job of working with our other pitchers to give opponents different looks.”

Also Nominated: Ashlee Laver, CWU; Caitlyn James, MSUB; Sidney Booth, NNU; Mackenzee Collins, WOU.

2024 All-Tournament Selections
2024 Concordia Kickoff Classic
Feb. 2-4 at Irvine, Calif. (Concordia Irvine, Host)
Montana State Billings: Lauren Blaschak, SS; Teagan Seeton, CF
Northwest Nazarene: Sidney Booth, LHP; Claudia Moreno, SS
Western Oregon: Nicki Derrick, RHP
Western Washington: Ashley Jacobsen, 1B; Alli Kimball, RHP; Hailey Rath, SS; Joie Baker, RHP
2024 Tournament of Champions
March 22-24 at Turlock, Calif. (Stanislaus State, Host)
Western Washington: Alli Kimball, RHP (MVP); Emma Andrewjeski-Ramirez, C
Rank Team (1st Place Votes) 2023 GNAC Record (Finish) Points
1. Northwest Nazarene (7) 39-17 21-3 (1st) 49
2. Western Washington 26-23 13-11 (3rd) 41
3. Saint Martin's 29-18 15-9 (2nd) 35
4. Western Oregon 22-30 11-13 (4th) 25
5. Central Washington 21-27 9-15 (6th) 19
6. Montana State Billings 18-28 10-14 (5th) 17
7. Simon Fraser 11-36 5-19 (7th) 10

Points awarded on a 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.