Baseball Takes To Ellensburg For GNAC Championships
Western Oregon's Kolbe Bales was named the GNAC Baseball Newcomer of the Year and was one of 13 WOU selections to the all-conference team.
Western Oregon's Kolbe Bales was named the GNAC Baseball Newcomer of the Year and was one of 13 WOU selections to the all-conference team.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

ELLENSBURG, Wash. – After earning its third regular-season title in four years, Montana State Billings leads the field for the 2018 GNAC Baseball Championships, which begin Wednesday at the Central Washington Baseball Field.

In an almost identical field to last year’s conference tournament, a trio of seasoned veterans and a first-timer comprise of the field. Entering the final week of the regular season, Montana State Billings, Western Oregon and Central Washington had all secured tournament berths while Concordia clinched on the final day of the regular season.

Montana State Billings dominated conference opponents by winning eight of 10 GNAC series. The Yellowjackets have smashed a program-best 62 home runs and is one away from tying the GNAC single-season record of 63, which was achieved by Northwest Nazarene last year.

Montana State Billings leads the GNAC in a handful of offensive categories, which include batting average (.316), runs (380), doubles (105), home runs (62) and RBIs (349).

Jalen Garcia has been an all-around threat on offense. Garcia is seventh in the GNAC with a .365 batting average and is among the league leaders in hits, runs scored, home runs, doubles, triples, RBIs and stolen bases.

Kaleo Johnson and Ryan Myers have brought overwhelming power to the MSUB lineup as the duo is tied for first in the GNAC with 12 home runs. Both players are also first and fourth in batting average, respectively.

Western Oregon, the 14-time GNAC champion, enters the tournament as the conference’s best pitching and fielding team. The Wolves boast a 4.67 ERA and are limiting opponents to a .269 batting average.

They have also combined to throw the most shutouts this season with six. When the ball has been put in play, the Wolves’ defense has been efficient in terms of recording outs. Western Oregon paces the GNAC with a .970 fielding percentage and has committed just 47 errors.

The tandem of Jacob Martinez and Jared McDonald has helped Western Oregon earn its sixth straight GNAC Championships appearance as both players own a .333 batting average.

Beware of WOU’s flamethrowing ace, Alex Roth, who leads the league with a 3.20 ERA. In 56.1 innings pitched, Roth has compiled 56 strikeouts and has limited hitters to a .232 batting average.

The tournament host, Central Washington, make its fourth appearance to the championships.

It is led by slugger James Smith III, who owns a .369 batting average and .642 slugging percentage. He has recorded 19 multi-hit games this season and leads CWU with 70 hits, 20 doubles and 10 homers.

On the mound, Connor Stevenson has been Central Washington’s most consistent starting pitcher all year. Maintaining a 4.52 ERA, Stevenson has tossed a team-high four complete games and is second on the team with 52 strikeouts. Teammate Seth Pederson has thrown three complete games this year.

Rounding out the field is Concordia, which appears in the GNAC postseason in its first full year as a Division II member. The Cavaliers used a monster stretch in the middle of the season to play themselves back into postseason contention, where they won nine of 11 games over an 18-day span.

Andrew Barrera has been the backbone of Concordia’s offense as he leads the team in a handful of offensive categories. Appearing in 43 games this year, Cole Crosby maintains a .956 fielding percentage to go along with 12 RBIs. Kaleb Jones enters the tournament as Concordia’s wins leader with five.

Action at the GNAC Championships begins on Wednesday with No. 3 Central Washington facing No. 2 Western Oregon at 11:30 a.m. No. 4 Concordia and No. 1 Montana State Billings will square off at 3 p.m. The championship game in the double-elimination tournament takes place Friday at noon.