Western Oregon clinches inaugural GNAC crown versus Central Washington
MONMOUTH, Ore. -- Needing two wins against Central Washington to claim the inaugural Great Northwest Athletic Conference Baseball Championship, Western Oregon cruised to 11-2 and 10-2 wins against the Wildcats to claim the postseason title on Friday. With the victories, WOU improved to 34-20 overall.
“Our team really wanted it [Friday] and it was a terrific all around effort,” head coach Kellen Walker said. “We responded well to [Thursday's] loss and our offense came out ready to attack. Our guys really wanted to be the ones who grabbed the first GNAC postseason championship and their effort made that happen.”
After claiming game one 11-2, WOU jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the deciding game with three runs in the first inning. The first five batters for the Wolves reached base as Scott David drove home the first run of the game when he doubled home Chris Bradshaw to give the Wolves a 1-0 lead. Matt Nylen followed with an RBI single while Daniel McNabb added a sacrifice fly to center field as WOU grabbed control early.
CWU cut the lead to two with a run in the fourth, but WOU put the game away in the fifth with five runs to grab an 8-1 lead. Nylen provided the key blast as he slammed a three-run home run over the left field fence, scoring Miller and David, to put the Wolves ahead 6-1. The home run was the team-leading fifth of the season for the senior outfielder.
After Tim Rausch scored on a throwing error, Garret Harpole added a sacrifice fly as the Wolves were within striking distance of the conference postseason title.
The lead was more than enough for WOU starter Zach Nuno as he allowed only one earned run through eight innings to move to 7-2 on the season. Nuno allowed only seven hits while striking out three in the tournament to clinch win.
“Our starting pitching was fantastic throughout the entire championship,” Walker said. “AJ [Burke] was a tough-luck loser [Thursday] and Gary [Steindorf] and Zach [Nuno] really picked him up. They were hitting their spots and did a great job of keeping the ball low in the zone against a potent line-up.”
Miller capped off his career, and the Wolves' win, as his two-run double in the eighth-inning gave WOU a 10-2 lead.
Tyler Roberts took the loss for CWU and fell to 3-7 on the year after allowing five runs on four hits in four innings of work.
Nylen led the WOU attack, going 2-for-5 with a run and four RBIs as his performance in the final game of the championship helped him earn tournament MVP honors.
“It's such a great honor to be named Most Valuable Player for the tournament, but it was a total team effort. I just tried to take a patient approach at the plate and it worked out for me this weekend,” Nylen said. “We're so excited to be the team that won the first postseason conference championship, especially since it is something we really wanted after winning the regular-season title.”
David added three runs and three hits for WOU while Rausch drew three walks in the victory.
Justin Weigel led CWU in the loss, going 2-for-4 with a run scored.
Facing elimination in game one, WOU responded by jumping out to an early 4-0 lead before cruising to an 11-2 victory.
Gary Steindorf paced the Wolves, improving to 6-4 on the season after allowing two runs in eight innings of action to pick up the victory. Steindorf struck out three while allowing only one walk and eight hits against the Wildcats lineup.
WOU took advantage of some early CWU errors, scoring a pair of unearned runs in the second inning for the early 2-0 lead. After Nylen scored on a fielding error, McNabb doubled home Tim Rausch for the second run of the contest.
Nylen and Rausch added RBI singles in the third, while McNabb capped the route with a two-run triple to right field in the sixth to give the Wolves an 11-2 lead.
McNabb finished the contest going 4-for-5 with a run and three RBIs while Nylen added three hits, three runs and an RBI for WOU.
Kasey Bielec provided the only runs for CWU with his two-run single to right field in the fourth inning.
Stuart Fewel took the loss for CWU and finished the year 5-4 after allowing six runs on six hits in 3.1 innings of work. CWU finished the season with a 30-23 overall mark.