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Ellensburg Showdown Closes First Half Of Conference Play
Garcia (left) is fifth in the GNAC with a .354 batting average while Smith leads the conference hitting .410. The duo has combined for 23 doubles and 56 RBIs this year.
Garcia (left) is fifth in the GNAC with a .354 batting average while Smith leads the conference hitting .410. The duo has combined for 23 doubles and 56 RBIs this year.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

WOLVES CONTINUE CONFERENCE ROLL: Picked by conference coaches as the GNAC preseason favorites, Western Oregon has met all expectations thus far as it sits in first place at 12-11, 12-4 GNAC. Despite a rough start to the season, the Wolves have bounced back to earn three convincing series wins and a split to begin the conference season.

Western Oregon enters the week as the best pitching and fielding team in the GNAC. The Wolves pace the league with a 4.03 earned run average and have struck out 141 batters all season. In terms of fielding, the Wolves have almost been flawless, especially during the conference season. As a team, Western Oregon is fielding at a .970 percentage and have committed just 17 errors through 16 GNAC games. The Wolves return home from a 14-game road trip this weekend to host Northwest Nazarene.

SMITH III CONTINUES DOMINANT SEASON AGAINST SAINTS: What a season it has been for Central Washington’s James Smith III. Earlier this week, Smith III was named the GNAC Baseball Player of the Week for the second time this season after an all-around offensive showing against Saint Martin’s last weekend where he went 2 for 4 and had five RBIs in the season-opener on Saturday, which included a two-RBI single to right and a three-run homer. Smith then went 4 for 4 and scored two runs in the nightcap, a 10-4 victory. He then opened Sunday’s twinbill by going 3 for 5 with three RBIs and a double in an 11-1 victory.

Smith III leads the GNAC in batting average (.410), hits (43), runs scored (28), RBIs (29), total bases (70) and is ninth in Division II with 13 doubles.

‘JACKETS TO PLAY FINAL ROAD SERIES OF REGULAR SEASON: Opening the season with a lengthy 30-game road trip, Montana State Billings will play its final GNAC series away from Dehler Park this weekend at Central Washington.

The Yellowjackets are just a half-game back of first place Western Oregon and currently sit in a two-way tie for second place with Central Washington (11-5). Montana State Billings is coming off its second straight GNAC series victory as it took three of four games from Northwest Nazarene in a slugfest in Nampa, Idaho.

Montana State Billings is also the only GNAC team to have been ranked in the NCBWA Division II West Region Poll over the last two weeks. Ranked No. 7 the previous three weeks, the Yellowjackets enter its upcoming series ranked No. 8 in the region.

THIS WEEK'S GNAC PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Player
James Smith III, Central Washington
OF • 6-1 • Sr. • Riverside, Calif.

Smith led the Wildcats to a 3-1 weekend over Saint Martin’s with a .529 batting average with nine hits, seven runs, nine RBIs, one double and a home run. He went 2 for 4 and had five RBIs in the season-opener on Saturday, which included a two-RBI single to right and a three-run homer. Smith then went 4 for 4 and scored two runs in the nightcap, a 10-4 victory. He then opened Sunday’s twinbill by going 3 for 5 with three RBIs and a double in an 11-1 victory.

Also Nominated: Matt Dillon (Montana State Billings), Jacob Martinez (Western Oregon).

Pitcher
Craig Grubbe, Western Oregon
P • 6-1 • Sr. • San Diego, Calif.

Grubbe threw a complete-game one-hitter to earn his second win of the season, a 2-0 shutout of Concordia in Portland. He walked two and struck out seven in the seven-inning tilt and faced just five batters over the minimum.

Also Nominated: Mackenzie Gaul (Central Washington), Isaac Mitchum (Concordia), Adam Cox (Concordia).

AROUND THE GNAC
CENTRAL WASHINGTON
• Despite dropping the series opener to Saint Martin’s 8-5 on Saturday, Central Washington bounced back to claim a 3-1 series win. The Wildcats earned a 10-4 win in Saturday’s nightcap before coming away with 11-1 and 15-1 victories on Sunday.

• Central Washington was firing on all cylinders from the plate as it led all GNAC teams last week with a .346 batting average, 44 hits, 13 doubles and 41 runs scored.

• For the second time this season, senior James Smith III was named the GNAC Baseball Player of the Week after he finished with a .529 batting average with nine hits, seven runs, nine RBIs, one double and a home run. He went 2 for 4 and had five RBIs in the season-opener on Saturday, which included a two-RBI single to right and a three-run homer. Smith then went 4 for 4 and scored two runs in the nightcap and opened Sunday’s twinbill by going 3 for 5 with three RBIs and a double in an 11-1 victory. He leads the GNAC in batting average (.410), hits (43), runs scored (28), RBIs (29), doubles (13) and total bases (70).

• Sophomore Justin Hampson continues to swing a hot bat as he hit .462 last weekend. Hampson opened the series going 3 for 4 on Saturday and went 2 for 4 with a run scored in the first game of Sunday’s twinbill. He is fourth in the league with a .377 batting average.

• Senior Mackenzie Gaul picked up his second win of the season after allowing just two hits in six innings of work in Central Washington’s 11-1 win. Gaul allowed two singles, which came in the second and fourth innings. He is fifth in the GNAC with a 3.66 ERA and has compiled 21 strikeouts this season.

• The Wildcats lead the GNAC with 268 hits. Their pitching staff is second in the conference with a 5.45 earned run average and has amassed 156 strikeouts this season. Central Washington has four of the GNAC’s top-11 hitters in terms of batting percentage with all four hitting better than .327.

• Central Washington looks to take sole control of second place as it finishes its 16-game homestand against Montana State Billings this weekend.

CONCORDIA
• Taking on first-place Western Oregon last weekend, Concordia took 1-0 and 11-0 losses in Saturday’s doubleheader before earning a 4-3 in Sunday’s opener. The Cavs ended the weekend with a 2-0 defeat in the nightcap.

• Concordia’s offense struggled to find any rhythm as it hit .184 as a team and manufactured just four runs.

• Down 3-1 entering the eighth inning of game three, a Mitch Bevacqua two-RBI single proved to be the deciding factor in the contest. The hit, which gave CU a 4-3 advantage, was his second of the game and his fourth of the series.

• Senior Andrew Barerra paced the Cavs’ offense with a .308 batting average. Barerra went 2 for 2 in Saturday’s nightcap before going 2 for 4 and scoring a run in Concordia’s 4-3 victory. He leads CU with a .340 batting average and is one of three Cavs with 10 RBIs this season.

• Earning a no-decision after throwing 10 innings in the series opener, junior Jake Roes dominated as he allowed just six hits and no runs to go along with two strikeouts in the Cavaliers’ 1-0 extra-inning defeat. In seven appearances this season, Roes maintains a 4.74 earned run average and has struck out sixteen batters.

• Concordia is hitting .248 this year and has recorded 206 hits and 40 doubles. The Cavs are also fourth in the GNAC with a 6.20 earned run average.

• The Cavaliers continue their 12-game homestand as they host Saint Martin’s this weekend at Porter Park.

MONTANA STATE BILLINGS
• Montana State Billings exploded for 36 runs last weekend as they took three of four games from Northwest Nazarene in Nampa. The Yellowjackets earned 15-8 and 10-6 win on Friday, but dropped Saturday’s opener 7-4. The ‘Jackets bounced back to win 7-5 in the nightcap.

• The Yellowjackets were second in the GNAC last week in runs scored and unloaded a league-high nine home runs.

• Junior Matt Dillon paced the Yellowjackets’ offense by batting .700 over three games. He opened the series with a monster outing, going 5 for 6 with five runs batted in and two runs scored. Three of his RBIs came in the third inning when he smashed a home run to left center to push MSUB’s lead to 7-0. Dillon’s season came to an unfortunate halt, however, in game three when he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

• Junior Connor Linebarger complemented Dillon by batting .429 last weekend. The junior went 3 for 4 in Friday’s 15-8 win and recorded two RBIs and three runs. He followed that up with a hit and two more RBIs in the following contest, a 10-6 victory. Linebarger is ninth in the GNAC with a .330 batting average and has tallied 19 runs batted in.

• Junior Steen Fredrickson continued his dominant season by allowing two runs in six innings of on work and six strikeouts in the series opener. Leading the league with five wins, Fredrickson is among the GNAC leaders with a 2.75 ERA  and leads the conference with 38 strikeouts.

• Montana State Billings is second in the GNAC with a .296 batting average and is among the Division II leaders with 15 sacrifice flies. In the latest NCBWA Division II West Region Rankings, the Yellowjackets are ranked No. 8.

• The Yellowjackets play their final regular-season road series this weekend when it takes on Central Washington for sole possession of second place.

NORTHWEST NAZARENE
• Northwest Nazarene was unable to pick up its second series win of the season as it fell to Montana State Billings last weekend. The Nighthawks dropped the Friday doubleheader 15-8 and 10-6 but managed to earn a 7-4 win in game three. Looking to salvage a split in Saturday’s nightcap, MSUB used a three-run seventh inning to down NNU 7-5.

• The Nighthawks’ offense batted .325 during the weekend and recorded 41 hits and 26 runs. It was their pitching that struggled, however, as it allowed 36 runs on 39 hits and 26 walks.

• Pacing NNU’s offense was freshman Justin Folz, who hit .500 in the series. Folz had a career day on Friday as he went 2 for 5 and knocked in three RBIs in the series opener before going 2 for 3 and scoring three runs in the following contest. In the Nighthawks’ lone victory, Folz knocked in his sixth RBI of the week with an RBI single to right center in the first inning. He improves his season batting average to .276 and is slugging at a .483 clip.

• Junior Kyle Redford also had himself a productive weekend at the plate as he hit .429 in the series. He recorded at least one hit in all four contests and supplied one or more RBIs in the final three games.

• Sophomore Blake McFadden earned the save in game three after pitching three innings of hitless ball to seal the win. The save is his first of the season and he now has a 2.87 ERA in 10 appearances.

• The Nighthawks are third in the GNAC batting .287 and are tied for first in the GNAC with 27 home runs. Northwest Nazarene takes the road as it squares off against Western Oregon this weekend in Monmouth.

SAINT MARTIN’S
• Saint Martin’s struggles continued last weekend as it took a series defeat to Central Washington. Earning an 8-5 win in the series opener on Saturday, the Saints dropped the next three games 10-4, 11-1 and 15-1.

• The Saints were overpowered by Central Washington’s offense as they allowed nine or more hits in all four         contests.

• Playing in just three games last week, junior Colton Peha paced the SMU offense by batting .300. All three of his hits came in the series finale where he went a perfect 3 for 3. Peha is fourth on the team with a .264 batting average and has recorded 23 hits, seven of which have been doubles. He is also one of five Saints with a perfect fielding percentage.

• Senior Steven Sordahl hit for a .286 average over the weekend. He went 2 for 5 with an RBI and two runs scored in the series-opening win and followed it up with a 2 for 4 showing in Saturday’s nightcap. Sordahl is second on the team hitting for a .293 average and maintains a .353 on-base percentage.

• Junior Clark Streby and Matthew Dunaway combined for the Saints’ lone win. Streby allowed five runs in 6.2 innings of work before Dunaway shut the door on the Wildcats by allowing just one hit in 2.1 innings to earn his first save of the year.

• As a team, Saint Martin’s is hitting .239 this season and is one of two GNAC teams with seven triples.

• Saint Martin’s heads down the I-5 corridor this weekend to take on Concordia for a four-game tilt at Porter Park.

WESTERN OREGON
• Western Oregon continued its impressive GNAC start to remain in first place at 12-4. The Wolves took three of four games at Concordia over the weekend, winning the opening two games via 1-0 and 11-0 shutouts. Despite falling 4-3 in Sunday’s opener, the Wolves used dominant pitching to seal a 2-0 win in the series finale.

• The Wolves’ pitching staff dominated the weekend series as it led all GNAC teams with a 1.09 earned run average with just 11 walks and four earned runs allowed.

• Junior Jared McDonald led Western Oregon by batting .500 over three contests. He compiled five hits and drove in a run to go along with a double. In 21 starts this year, McDonald holds a .289 batting average and is third on the team with five home runs.

• Going 5 for 14 in the series, senior Justin Spinner managed three RBIs and two runs scored. All three RBIs came in Western Oregon’s 11-0 shutout of the Cavs as he knocked in a two-RBI single in the third inning before spraying an RBI single to right center in the sixth. Spinner improves his batting average to .228 on the season and now has nine runs batted in.

• Senior Craig Grubbe was named the GNAC Baseball Pitcher of the Week after he threw a complete-game one-hitter to earn his second win of the season, a 2-0 shutout of Concordia in Portland. He walked two and struck out seven in the seven-inning tilt and faced just five batters over the minimum. Grubbe is eighth in the GNAC with a 4.25 ERA and is one of three Wolves with at least 22 strikeouts.

• Western Oregon is fourth in the GNAC with a .272 batting average. Fielding has been a strength this season as the Wolves lead the GNAC with a .968 fielding percentage. The pitching staff also paces the conference with a 4.03 earned run average.

• The Wolves entertain Northwest Nazarene to close the first half of conference play with a four-game set this weekend in Monmouth.

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