Western Oregon's Season Ends With Pair Of Losses
Matthew Dunaway pitched three innings in WOU's 10-6 loss to Azusa Pacific as Western Oregon went 0-2 at the NCAA West Regional. Photo by Amanda Loman.
Matthew Dunaway pitched three innings in WOU's 10-6 loss to Azusa Pacific as Western Oregon went 0-2 at the NCAA West Regional. Photo by Amanda Loman.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

PORTLAND, Ore. – After a 34-win season, a GNAC regular-season co-championship and a GNAC Championships win, Western Oregon baseball saw its season come to an end with two losses to nationally-ranked teams to open the NCAA West Regional in Azusa, California.

The No. 6 seed Wolves lost in the opening game of the double-elimination regional 6-3 to CCAA regular-season champions Cal State Monterey Bay, then were unable to keep their season alive against No. 2 seed Azusa Pacific, falling 10-6 despite a grand slam from John Stark.

Azusa Pacific and Cal State Monterey Bay will now have a best-of-three series to determine the West Regional #2 champion that will face either Point Loma or Northwest Nazarene in the West Region super regional.

The Wolves opened against a 36-win Cal State Monterey Bay team that entered the regional ranked No. 24 in the country by the NCBWA. Starting pitcher Mike Peterson saw a leadoff walk come back to bite him in the first inning when a two-out Jason Ajamian single scored the game’s first run for CSUMB, but the senior settled down after that, facing one over the minimum over the next three innings.

Western Oregon has relied on consistently manufacturing runs all year long, and their postseason approach was no different. In the third inning, Jacob Maiben led off with a single and Derek Maiben bunted him over to second base. Jacob Maiben took third on a wild pitch before Justyn Herzog did his job by lifting a fly ball to center to score Maiben on the sacrifice fly.

The Wolves then strung four singles off Otters starter Ethan McRae in the fourth inning, including an RBI hit from left fielder Levi Cummings that scored Leighton Moniz. After a Nathan Flores home run tied the score for CSUMB, the Wolves manufactured another run when Anthony Zellner doubled and was bunted to third by Spencer Weston before scoring on a sacrifice fly from Cummings. Zellner had three hits in the opening game.

The Otters turned the tide in the bottom of the sixth. The first two batters of the inning reached on singles before Ajamian hit a three-run home run to left field that gave CSUMB a 5-3 lead. Peterson then allowed another single before the Wolves pulled their starter for GNAC Championships MVP Bryce Bond. The freshman reliever would allow the inherited runner to score, giving Peterson a final line of six runs on seven hits in five innings, but Bond pitched two scoreless innings before Chris Hardin had a 1-2-3 eighth. After a leadoff double in the seventh inning, the Otters retired nine straight WOU hitters to end the game.

The opening-game loss meant that Western Oregon had to stay put and face host Azusa Pacific. The Cougars came in 34-16 and were ranked No. 2 in the regional and No. 16 in the country.

It was an atypical Western Oregon game. The Wolves, whose .977 fielding percentage ranked fourth in Division II, committed three errors, and WOU did not get the stabilizing start they were hoping for from Arturo Alvarez. The GNAC Pitcher of the Year gave up seven runs, five earned, on seven hits in five-plus innings pitched.

Alvarez allowed two home runs to APU, which matched his total from the entire season entering the game. He exited after the second of those home runs, a two-run shot from Casey Dykstra that made it 7-2 Cougars in the sixth. Reliever Matthew Dunaway snuffed out the threat in the sixth inning but allowed a three-run home run to Casey O’Laughlin in the eighth inning. Cummings continued his strong day at the plate for WOU with a solo home run in the fifth inning.

The Wolves ended on a high note with a too little, too late rally in the top of the ninth. With two outs in the inning, Derek Maiben singled and Herzog drew a walk to bring Stark to the plate, who drove a 1-1 pitch over the wall to the opposite field in right for a grand slam. The blast gave Stark sole possession of the GNAC home run lead with 11. The final out soon followed, however, with Logan Ho striking out looking to seal the win for the Cougars.

Western Oregon outhit APU 13-9, receiving three hits from Derek Maiben, Stark and Ho in the second game. Stark (five) and Cummings (three) combined for eight of WOU’s nine RBI over the course of the regional.