Simson Garcia | Sports Editor
The Wolves baseball team are champions for a second time consecutively, after downing the Montana State Yellowjackets, 8-4, on May 11 in the GNAC double elimination championship.
GNAC champions for the fourth time in six years, Western had to batter up through three previous tournament games in order to reach the final. The championship run began with them taking down tournament host Central Washington, 4-3, on May 10.
Tied, 3-3, in the bottom of the ninth inning, Griffey Halle, junior outfielder, hit not only a walk-off for the team’s fifth overall, but a home run just over the right side fence. Halle was four-for-four with his at-bats. While the walk-off contributed momentum, pitching was also a game changer; four pitchers were utilized to strikeout Central 11 times.
The Wolves met the Montana State Yellowjackets in the following round of the winner’s bracket, a team they forfeited four seasonal games to due to scheduling conflicts. The forfeits affected who would be seeded first in the GNAC and, by a few games, Montana took over the top spot. Western paid no mind to seeding in a reroute of the ‘Jackets, 14-8.
The games forfeited, although, meant much to players like senior infielder Nyles Nygaard who couldn’t wait for the matchup.
“We wanted to beat them by a lot of runs, so the first game we came out and just handed it to them,” Nygaard said.
Home runs switched hands in the early innings but a more favorable one for the Wolves entered the stands in the fourth. A three-run shot, for an 8-4 lead, was delivered by sophomore infielder Connor McCord. The infielder had the green light for most of the game, hitting four of his five at bats while earning five runs-batted-in. The Wolves put on a hitting clinic, earning 19 on the game.
One more win was needed for Western, but the tone changed when the ‘Jackets returned to edge out Western, in a pivotal 6-4 result. Both teams strategized in their pitching as multiple mound visits occurred. Montana did just enough with one pitcher to hold of their opponents, and keep their tournament in play.
It came around to the final championship game, while neither team couldn’t afford to lose. The Wolves made sure their season didn’t end in the first period. Five consecutive runs started them out. Montana hit two key homers to come within two, but the game was for the Wolves’s taking. Western got their players on bases earning 13 hits and seven walks en route to their title.
Jacob Martinez, senior infielder, was named MVP of the tournament. He went 9-16 in at-bats with a .750 on-base percentage.
The championship win, however, wasn’t enough to get selected into Nationals. The team finished their season at 27-21.
“It would have helped when we went down to California early in the season if we won a couple of those close games … to win back-to-back GNAC championships is the best way to go out,” said Nygaard.
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Photo by: wouwolves.com