Early Runs Lift Nighthawks To Win Over WWU
Abigail Gagnon is batting .311 this season in 49 games at third base for Northwest Nazarene.
Abigail Gagnon is batting .311 this season in 49 games at third base for Northwest Nazarene.

Friday, May 6, 2022

ELLENSBURG, Wash. – Northwest Nazarene wasted no time staking themselves to an early lead against Western Washington and let ace Sidney Booth carry them the rest of the way as NNU defeated the Vikings 4-0 in the first elimination game of the GNAC Championships.

The Nighthawks scored three in the first on a barrage of singles and added another run in the second. Hitting third in NNU’s lineup, Booth drove in a pair of runs, which was double the amount the Nighthawks needed as the GNAC Pitcher of the Year twirled a three-hit gem for her 25th complete game of the year.

Northwest Nazarene, the regular-season champion and tournament No. 1 seed, will advance to face the loser of Friday’s 1 p.m. game between Saint Martin’s and Central Washington at 4 p.m. Friday. A year after sweeping its way to the GNAC Championships title in 2021, Western Washington is the first team eliminated after suffering its second loss.

The Nighthawks came out of the gate wanting to use contact and speed against the Vikings. Leadoff batter Emma Mulligan singled and stole second. Shortstop Ivy Hommel walked and Mulligan alertly took third base when WWU catcher Rachel Christensen’s throw back to the pitcher after ball four was wild and went into center field. Hommel then stole second to put two runners in scoring position for the heart of the NNU order.

Booth advanced both runners with a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Mulligan and sending Hommel to third, before Maia McNicoll sharply singled through the left side on the seventh pitch of her at-bat to make it a 2-0 ballgame. With two outs, Abigail Gagnon and Charlotte Forniss hit back-to-back singles to score a third run and prompt a Western Washington pitching change from Sydney Brown to senior Kira Doan. It was the second consecutive game at these Championships that Brown failed to throw more than an inning during her start.

After batting around in the first inning, the top of the Nighthawks’ line-up caused more headaches in the second. Mulligan led off with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch before Booth put the ball in the air to right field for her second sacrifice fly of the game.

Doan settled in after that, only scattering three singles the rest of the way and retiring the final eight Nighthawks she faced, but the damage was done as Booth was ruthlessly efficient. Booth only needed four pitches to retire the Vikings 1-2-3 in the first inning. She threw 77 pitches and 55 strikes, including 20 of 26 first-pitch strikes to WWU hitters. In seven innings, Booth gave up three singles, walked one and struck out three, improving her record to 16-11 on the season.

Chantelle Shimabukuro was a bright spot offensively for Western Washington, recording two of the Vikings’ three hits by singling in the second and fourth innings.