Crusaders' Series Win Lands Team Of The Week Honor
Northwest Nazarene picked up three wins against Montana State Billings to set the program record for wins in a single season with 23.
Northwest Nazarene picked up three wins against Montana State Billings to set the program record for wins in a single season with 23.

Monday, April 24, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. – Northwest Nazarene softball won three of four games against Montana State Billings over the weekend to earn selection as the Red Lion/GNAC Team of the Week while setting the program record for wins in a single season.

The Crusaders improved their record to 23-23 overall and 13-11 in the GNAC with their first season-series triumph against the Yellowjackets since MSUB joined the conference in 2008.

With the three wins, NNU now stands a game ahead of Western Oregon in the standings for fourth place. The Crusaders trail Western Washington by a game and will play the Vikings at home in a four-game series this weekend.

Northwest Nazarene split Friday’s doubleheader with the Yellowjackets with a 6-2 win in the series opener before falling 12-6 in the nightcap. Leadoff hitter Cassidy Fifield drilled a bases-clearing double into center field in the second inning to hand the Crusaders a 3-0 lead. In the circle, Brooke Bonsen tossed a two-run complete game with seven strikeouts to pick up her 11th win of the season.

The Crusaders then picked up a sweep on Saturday to win the season series against MSUB, recording big innings late in both games to overcome early deficits. The NNU offense exploded for 36 runs in the series and is now tied for second in the conference in runs scored with 245 this season.

“We did a good job Saturday of coming back from a tough loss yesterday,” NNU head coach Rich Wagner said. “The players never quit and it’s fun to coach this group.”

Heading into the bottom of the fifth inning of the third game of the series, Northwest Nazarene trailed 3-0, but already had six players reach base. In the next two innings, NNU didn’t waste runners on base, driving in five runs in each frame for a 10-3 lead. The Crusaders scrapped for each run, scoring twice off errors and a had RBIs on a sacrifice bunt and two sacrifice flies.

“It’s the first time this program has been in this situation and they responded really well,” Wagner said of being in position to reach the GNAC Championships going into the final two weeks of the regular season. “That’s mental toughness and we’ve been working on that all year long. That’s what I’m most proud of them for.”

In the series finale, Northwest Nazarene gave up a run in the top of the first inning, but the offense responded with an 11-run third inning en route to a 14-5 victory. Rylee Thomas threw a complete game with five runs allowed, four earned, on nine hits with three strikeouts and no walks. Fifield again came up with the big hits for the Crusaders, producing a third-inning RBI-double and RBI-walk before drilling a three-run homer to left-center field in the fourth inning.

“I think that hitting is contagious. Once one player hits, everybody hits,” Wagner said. “The players put the barrel on the ball consistently. They weren’t swinging right away. They were grinding and having good at-bats. In the series finale, we had six walks and all of them came off a full count.”

Western Washington will be the Crusaders’ next opponent. The Crusaders need at least three wins in the series to guarantee a spot in the GNAC Championships for the first time in program history. The 2017 GNAC Championships, which features the conference’s top four teams at the end of the regular season, will be hosted by Saint Martin’s and begin on May 4.