Late Runs Make For Exciting GNAC Softball Championships
Northwest Nazarene enters the GNAC Softball Championships as the No. 1 seed in its first ever appearance in the tournament.
Northwest Nazarene enters the GNAC Softball Championships as the No. 1 seed in its first ever appearance in the tournament.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. – It was a run right until the final innings of the regular season to set the field for the 2018 GNAC Softball Championships.

Only one team had secured a playoff berth entering the final week, leaving three teams to rally to make the four-team field for the tournament, which begins Thursday at Concordia University’s Porter Park.

Northwest Nazarene locked up its tournament berth two weeks ago. Central Washington, Simon Fraser and Western Oregon had to wait until the final weekend of the season to determine their fate, with the Clan and Wolves waiting until the final day. The tournament opens on Thursday with the winner receiving the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Championship.

Northwest Nazarene, in the GNAC Championships for the first time, used solid hitting and excellent pitching to collect a share of its first regular-season championship. Winners of five of seven GNAC series during the regular season and eight of their last 10 games, the Nighthawks (28-21, 19-9 GNAC) lead the conference with a .316 batting average and rank second with a 3.57 earned run average.

Freshman Jordan Adams has been hard to stop in the circle. Ranked 30th in Division II with a league-leading 1.49 earned run average, Adams is 17-6 on the season and has held opponents to a .196 batting average. She also leads the GNAC with 138 strikeouts and is 29th in Division II with 4.98 hits allowed per seven innings.  

Northwest Nazarene’s offense features seven batters hitting .300 or better and three of the GNAC’s top-10 hitters. Sophomore Brittany Genaurdi paces the lineup with a .371 batting average and leads the GNAC with 32 walks. Junior Kylie Orr is batting .367 and leads the GNAC with 44 RBIs and junior Cassidy Fifield is hitting .355 with 55 hits.

Central Washington, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, rallied over the two weeks to win five straight games and earn a share of its third straight regular-season title and its third straight GNAC Championships berth. The Wildcats (31-14, 19-9 GNAC) lead the conference with a 2.97 earned run average and have allowed the fewest walks (70) of any GNAC team. Offensively, the Wildcats are second in the GNAC with a .313 batting average and lead the conference with 80 stolen bases.

Sophomore Savannah Egbert has provided much of the offensive muscle for the Wildcats. Second in the GNAC with a .458 batting average, Egbert enters the tournament with a .503 on-base percentage and is 26th in Division II with 0.68 stolen bases per game (29 total). Freshman Katie Kastning is batting .379  while junior Rachael Johnson is batting .368 with 18 stolen bases.

The Wildcats also have a flame-throwing freshman of their own in Lexie Strasser. Second to Adams in the GNAC with a 2.60 earned run average, Strasser leads the league with 18 wins and has given up just 28 walks in 158 innings.

Simon Fraser is in the GNAC Championships for the first time in five years. Picked to finish eighth out of eight teams this season, the Clan (19-17, 15-13 GNAC) rallied to win five of their last seven games of the season, and three of four on the final weekend, to pull into a third-place tie with Western Oregon in the regular season standings. The trip to the postseason is a nice retirement gift for head coach Mike Renney, who will step down after 24 seasons at the end of the season.

The Clan enters the tournament with a .264 batting average. Senior Taylor Lundrigan leads the team with a .351 batting average, 25 RBIs and a .518 slugging percentage. Freshman Kate Fergusson is batting .336 in her first collegiate season.

Senior Alia Stachoski leads the Simon Fraser pitching staff with a 3.43 earned run average and is ninth in Division II with five saves. Stachoski closed the regular season by winning all three games for the Clan on the final weekend in complete-game efforts. The Clan is the top fielding team in the conference, ranking 23rd in Division II with a .970 fielding percentage.

Western Oregon, in the GNAC Championships for the sixth year, is making a habit of waiting until the final day to qualify for the tournament. The Wolves (27-23, 15-13 GNAC) used an 11-10, eight-inning win over Western Washington on Sunday to lock up the No. 4 seed. Western Oregon is third in the GNAC with a .309 batting average while their 0.15 triples per game (18 total) is 17th in Division II.

Senior Ryanne Huffman is making the most of her final season, leading WOU offensively and ranking fourth in the GNAC with a .409 batting average. Her five triples on the season rank 30th in Division II. Freshman Tyler Creach is right behind Huffman with a .404 batting average to go along with 16 stolen bases. Both players have 67 hits on the season, tying for third in the GNAC, while Creach’s 41 runs scored is second.

Senior Lizzet Dominguez has been the Wolves best pitcher over the second half of the season, entering the Championships with 12 wins and a 3.43 earned run average. Senior Haley Fabian has won 10 games and owns a 4.17 earned run average.

Action at the GNAC Championships begins on Thursday with No. 3 Simon Fraser facing No. 2 Central Washington at 4:30 p.m. No. 4 Western Oregon and No. 1 Northwest Nazarene will square off at 7 p.m. The championship game in the double-elimination tournament takes place Saturday at noon.