Baseball Weekly Report

Jan. 30, 2015 Contact: Nathan Webber (503)305-8756/nwebber@gnacsports.com Wildcats Voted to Dethrone Wolves in Preseason Poll Great Northwest Coaches Poll 2014 Records Pts 1. Central Washington (3) 17-14, 31-18, 2nd 22 2. Western Oregon (1) 22-10, 30-21, 1st 21 rd 3. Saint Martin’s (1) 14-17, 18-30, 3 15 4. Northwest Nazarene 13-19, 18-31, t-4th 9 5. Montana State Billings 13-19, 16-30, t-4th 8 (Note: First-place votes in parentheses. Points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis). First-team all-GNAC starting pitcher Eric Huson, who was one of only two conference pitchers to have an ERA south of three, is back for WOU. He finished the 2014 GNAC season in the top five in wins, shutouts and opposing batting average while striking out 40 batters. PORTLAND, Ore. – After spending 13 straight seasons as regular season champions, Western Oregon was voted to be unseated this year by the same team that beat them in the conference tournament a year ago, Central Washington. On the offensive side of the ball, the Wolves return four allGNAC selections from a year ago. Three are retuning infielders in first baseman Nathan Etheridge, third baseman Garret Harpole and shortstop Austin Hamilton while outfielder Matt Taylor led the group in batting average last season at .333. The 2014 tournament champions narrowly edged the regular season champions in the coaches preseason poll, receiving one more vote. Saint Martin’s returns 21 players from last year’s tournament team in GNAC Coach of the Year Ken Garland’s seventh season. Central Washington also received three of the five total firstplace votes while the other two GNAC tournament teams from a year ago, Western Oregon and Saint Martin’s, received the other two first-place votes. Catcher Chandler Tracy, a GNAC first-team selection, is back behind the plate sending signs to senior pitchers Zach Carter and Josh Moss. These two pitchers combined for a 4.55 ERA in nine wins, striking out 84 batters along the way. The Saints 15 points put them in the same position they ended in 2014, in third. Northwest Nazarene and Montana State Billings rounded out the poll in a close race for fourth and fifth respectively. The GNAC’s top designated hitter, Travis Shaw, also returns for his senior season with the Saints after batting .322 in 46 games. Central Washington, which led the GNAC in batting average, runs, ERA and saves in 2014 after a 31-18 campaign, is returning a few of the best players in the conference. Head coach Desi Storey, coming off his 500th win in last season’s GNAC tournament, has his ace back on the mound in GNAC Pitcher of the Year Brandon Williams. The righty, along with second baseman/designated hitter Kasey Bielec, was named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association West Region first-team Friday. Closer Corey Welch, also the Wildcats all-purpose utility player and the GNAC Newcomer of the Year, is also back and looking to improve upon his conference-leading 11 saves in 2014. Western Oregon’s Kellen Walker is in for his third full season looking to win his third straight regular season championship and the Wolves 14th straight. Second-year Northwest Nazarene coach Rocke Musgraves is looking to improve a team that nearly went to the GNAC tournament in his first season with the club. Returnees from that team include three of the team’s top four hitters in Kyle Thomson, Tate Glasgow and Ryan Johnson. Thomson and Glasgow were two of the three Saints hitters batting over .300 while Johnson led the team with 11 doubles after not grounding into a double-play in 136 at-bats. Catcher Andrew Helmstadter is also returning after posting a .983 fielding percentage and 216 putouts. Montana State Billings, led by fifth year coach Rob Bishop, returns a potent offense that finished first or second in the conference in batting average, on-base percentage and extrabase hits with 135. Last season’s Player of the Year, Brody Miller, returns after leading the conference in hits, doubles, on-base percentage and walks. The honorable mention all-American was also