Western baseball team heads east

The Wolves are seeded No. 3 in the West Regional, which will be played in Kansas off all places.

MONMOUTH -- Western Oregon baseball coach Terry Baumgartner learned late on May 11 that, like Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, "There is no place like home."

Except that, for Baumgartner's baseball team, home this week will not be Western Oregon or even UC Davis as projected, but it will be Dorothy's home -- Kansas.

Baumgartner and the Wolves will travel to Hays, Kansas this week for the 2003 NCAA Division II West Regional Tournament.

Fort Hays State, by virtue of winning the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament over the weekend, moved up into the No. 2 spot in the west rankings. UC Davis, which was No. 2, dropped to No. 4 after losing two of three games at the California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.

Top-ranked Sonoma State, which captured the CCAA tournament on May 10, cannot host the regional because it does not have adequate facilities. Sonoma will still be the No. 1 seed in Hays.

Western Oregon, which swept four games from Central Washington May 10-11, is No. 3, and will play host Fort Hays in Thursday's evening game.

"I knew in the back of my mind that this possibility could blossom," Baumgartner said in regards to traveling to Kansas. "But I think that it caught a lot of people off guard. We had really hoped to host the event ourselves, that would have been a great reward for our players and fans."

WOU's Tucker Brack had eight hits in 18 at bats, including two doubles and three home runs, to lead the Wolves to a four-game sweep against Central Washington, earning GNAC Player of the Week honors. The former North Marion High School star drove in nine runs in the series and also played errorless baseball at second, handling 20 chances without a miscue.

Pitcher Justin Olson earned two victories and two saves, allowing just one earned run in 10 innings and was named the GNAC Pitcher of the Week. The St. Helens native allowed eight hits, while walking two and striking out six.

The Wolves have now won 21 of their last 23 starts. They are 40-13 overall, 17-2 at home, 22-2 in the GNAC, 20-10 on the road, 16-10 against NCAA Div. II teams from outside the GNAC and are 3-1 in neutral site games.

WOU's previous best winning percentage belongs to the 1995 team that went 33-13-1, a success rate of .713. Currently at 40-13 (.755), the Wolves will better that mark even if they go 0-2 in Kansas.

Most wins in a season belongs to the 2001 club that went 41-20 and placed third at the NAIA College World Series. WOU's winning season in 2003 is the 11th straight year that a WOU baseball has had more wins than losses.

Western Oregon had six players named to the first team All-GNAC squad. Selected to the squad were first baseman Bryce Gardinier, Brack, shortstop Tim Nickerson, outfielder Marc Knight, starting pitcher Donavan Martin and relief pitcher Olson. Earning honorable mention status were catcher Greg McCarthy, pitcher Andrew Harville and outfielder Adam Yeaney.


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