Nighthawks Avenge Loss To Wildcats, Advance To Finals
No. 1 seed Northwest Nazarene won two consecutive elimination games on Friday to advance to the finals of the GNAC Championships against Saint Martin's. Photo by Jacob Thompson.
No. 1 seed Northwest Nazarene won two consecutive elimination games on Friday to advance to the finals of the GNAC Championships against Saint Martin's. Photo by Jacob Thompson.

Friday, May 6, 2022

ELLENSBURG, Wash. – Central Washington made a statement on the first day of the GNAC Championships by handing top seed Northwest Nazarene a surprising 4-1 loss. In today’s rematch, CWU put up a strong fight once again, but gave NNU too many free bases for the Nighthawks not to take advantage.

Northwest Nazarene pulled out a 2-1 victory over CWU despite only managing one hit in the game, a first-inning RBI single from Ivy Hommel, but Central Washington walked five batters, threw three wild pitches and committed two passed balls to gift NNU traffic on the bases in dangerous positions. Offensively, Alyssa Benthagen’s sixth-inning RBI double was too little, too late as the host Wildcats lost their second consecutive game of the day and saw their season come to an end.

Although they did it in a roundabout manner by winning two Friday elimination games, Northwest Nazarene advances to the finals of the GNAC Championships to set up a match-up with No. 2 seed Saint Martin’s that was largely expected prior to the tournament. The two teams battled for the regular season championship until the season’s final weekend and recently split a four-game series on April 22-23.

After their aces threw each of the first two games, both Northwest Nazarene and Central Washington sent out their No. 2 starters – Tori Hensley for NNU and Isabel Womack for the Wildcats. Womack got off to a wobbly start in the bottom of the first inning by walking the NNU leadoff batter, second baseman Emma Mulligan. Mulligan went to second on a wild pitch before Hommel singled her home two pitches later.

The rain provided an intermission of sorts with a 1 hour, 21 minute delay prior to the start of the fourth inning, but both pitchers resumed wiggling out of trouble. A walk and an error put two out with nobody out for Northwest Nazarene in the fourth inning, but after a sacrifice bunt, Womack stranded the runners by striking out Charlotte Forniss and inducing a flyout from pinch-hitter Nicole Zuvela.

In the top of the fifth, Hensley encountered her own traffic jam after Wildcats second baseman Makenna King and center fielder Jillian Hampson each singled and moved up to second and third on a passed ball with still nobody out. Undeterred, Hensley retired Taylor Kai on a comebacker to the pitcher, struck out pinch-hitter Ashlee Laver and forced lead-off hitter Harlee Carpenter to ground out to end the threat.

Womack’s nine lives ran out in the bottom of the fifth. She walked NNU catcher Kelcie Adams to lead off the frame, and Adams was lifted for pinch-runner Mari Kamemoto. A wild pitch and a passed ball gave Kamemoto free passage to third base and put Womack behind in the count to Mulligan, who drew her second walk of the game and promptly stole second. With one out, Sidney Booth hit a groundout to shortstop that was deep enough to score Kamemoto to make it 2-0, but Mulligan bailed out CWU by trying to score on the play and getting thrown out at the plate by Wildcats first baseman Brooke Jordan.

Jordan hit a one-out single in the sixth and came around to score on Benthagen’s double to the left-center field gap, but the Wildcats could not push across the tying run. Two groundouts ended the threat in the sixth and Hensley only needed five pitches to retire the side in the seventh. The junior hurler’s final line was one earned run on five hits while walking one and striking out four in seven innings.