Central Washington Again Leads GNAC Championships Field
The Wildcats clinched their second straight GNAC regular season title witn a win on Saturday over Concordia.
The Wildcats clinched their second straight GNAC regular season title witn a win on Saturday over Concordia.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. – For the second straight year, Central Washington will be the team to beat when the 2017 GNAC Softball Championships begin on Thursday at the Saint Martin’s Softball Field in Lacey, Wash.

Central Washington, Western Washington, Saint Martin’s and Western Oregon comprise the four-team field in the double elimination tournament. The winner will receive the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Division II Tournament.

The Wildcats (33-13, 20-8 GNAC) secured the No. 1 seed and their second straight regular season title on Saturday with a 14-3, five-inning win over Concordia. The victory, however, was the lone win in a stretch that has seen the Wildcats lose six of their last seven games after not losing more than two consecutive games at any point earlier in the season. A veteran squad, Central Washington enters the championships leading the GNAC in both hitting and pitching and is paced by senior standouts Kailyn Campbell and Kiana Wood.

After missing the tournament in 2016, Western Washington is back as the No. 2 seed. The Vikings (30-17, 19-9 GNAC) benefitted from a great second half surge, going 16-6 in April, and enter the championships on an eight-game win streak. Western Washington is the only team in the tournament field with two players ranked in the GNAC top-10 in hitting, led by senior Emily Benson. The Vikings are led in the circle by freshman phenom Anna Kasner.

Saint Martin’s, the championships host, clinched the No. 3 seed with a doubleheader sweep of Western Oregon on Thursday. The Saints (25-17, 17-11 GNAC) closed out the regular season by winning six of their last nine games, all of which came over the last week. Saint Martin’s enters the tournament ranked second in the GNAC in batting average, led by senior Mary Dettling. The Saints’ pitching staff is led by junior Kim Nelson.

Western Oregon did not secure the No. 4 and final spot in the championships until the last day of the season, clinching its place with a doubleheader sweep of Central Washington on Sunday. Despite not playing a single game at home due to weather and field conditions, the Wolves (27-22, 14-14 GNAC) managed to finish above .500 overall for the sixth consecutive season. Western Oregon is third in the GNAC in both hitting and pitching, led by seniors Kelsie Gardner and Sammy Cadwallader.

Action begins on Thursday at noon with No. 2 Western Washington facing No. 3 Saint Martin’s. The second game, at 2:30 p.m., features No. 1 Central Washington against No. 4 Western Oregon. Advanced tickets can be purchased through Wed., May 3, on the GNAC’s EventBrite ticket page.

May 4-6 at Saint Martin’s University, Lacey, Wash.
Thurs., May 4
Game 1: No. 2 Western Washington vs. No. 3 Saint Martin’s, Noon
Game 2: No. 1 Central Washington vs. No. 4 Western Oregon, 2:30 p.m.

Fri., May 5
Game 3: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 10 a.m.
Game 4: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 12:30 p.m.
Game 5: Winner Game 4 vs. Loser Game 3, 3 p.m.

Sat., May 6
Game 6: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5, Noon
Game 7: Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 6 (if necessary), 2:30 p.m.