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Western Oregon junior and junior college transfer Kody Stone leads the GNAC in saves with nine.
April 03, 2013
WOU'S GNAC LEADERS
Batting average -- 1, Daniel McNabb, .365.
Stolen bases -- 1, Blake Miller, 10.
ERA -- t-1, Spenser Watkins, 2.84.
Strikeouts -- 1, A.J. Burke, 49.
Wins -- 1, Spenser Watkins, 5.
Saves -- 1, Kody Stone, 8.
Western Oregon at Montana State Billings (DH)
When: Saturday and Sunday, both twin bills set to start at noon.
MONMOUTH -- They come from all over: blue-collar guys who didn't geta scholarship to a four-year school and didn't sign a Major League Baseball contract and hop into the minor leagues.
Of the Western Oregon University baseball teams' 47 players, 24 are junior college transfers. Nearly half of the Wolves' current roster started their college baseball careers without knowing where their future team might be.
Western Oregon, with 11 straight Great Northwest Athletic Conference titles, has turned out to be a pretty great place to land.
By rebuilding each year, the Wolves -- who retained a one-game lead in the GNAC after last weekend's series split with Central Washington -- continue to find quality players from small programs who produce as they aim for their 12th consecutive league title.
"Day 1, we came in here and we started meshing on and off the field," junior closer Kody Stone said after picking up his conference-leading -- as well as nationally-ranked -- eighth save of the season in Friday's Game 1, 6-4 win.
The Wolves dropped Game 2, 3-0, before splitting Saturday's doubleheader, winning the first game 1-0 in 10 innings and losing the second, 13-10.
Central Washington (17-13, 11-5) remains one game back from WOU's conference lead.
Stone, a transfer from Everett (Wash.) Community College, is just one of the many new contributors for the Wolves (17-13, 12-4 GNAC), whose biggest change in 2013 has come on the mound. The Wolves lost all four of their 2012 starters -- including current minor leaguers Grady Wood and Jason Wilson -- to graduation.
Stone has come on strong as a guy to trust when WOU enters the final inning with a lead. In 12 appearances this season, he boasts a 1.42 ERA to go along with 10 strikeouts and nine saves, a mark that ranks him third in NCAA Division II.
"I'm just making sure I'm prepared every week to go out there and have good outings and support my team," Stone said. "I want to be out there when my team's winning and get the wins for them -- they deserve them."
Of WOU's primary four starters, Spenser Watkins, a transfer from Glendale Community College in Arizona, has also found success in a Wolves uniform.
Western Oregon senior shortstop Blake Miller fires a throw to first base during Friday’s Game 2 of a doubleheader against Great Northwest Athletic Conference foe Central Washington. The Wolves split with the Wildcats, 2-2, in the four-game series to maintain a one-game lead in the GNAC regular-season race.
After struggling in a wild 20-3 loss at Cal-State Monterey Bay March 15, the junior has responded with two-straight winning starts, first beating Saint Martin's in a two-hit, zero-run performance in a 3-1 victory March 23. Watkins followed that up Friday, picking up the opening-game victory when he gave up just five hits and two earned runs in 6.2 innings. Watkins also currently leads the conference in wins with five (5-3) and is tied for first in ERA (2.84).
"He didn't have his best outing last week and he's been battling a little bit from week to week, but he obviously threw well for us (Friday) and kept us in the game," WOU coach Kellen Walker said of Watkins, a right-hander who credited WOU's veterans -- the Wolves have 16 returning letterwinners -- for his squad's ability to mesh despite the influx of newcomers.
"I mean, I credit a lot of the guys that are returners that are able to bring me in and get me comfortable," Watkins said.
In Friday's Game 1 win, Blake Miller tallied two hits, including a double, and two RBI, Chris Bradshaw and Will Chavarria each totaled three hits, and Garrett Harpole added a solo home run in the Wolves' 14-hit affair.
In Saturday's Game 1 victory, reliever Taylor Hetrick picked up the win on the mound after Tim Rausch's double scored Blake Miller in the bottom of the 10th inning to capture the walk-off win. A.J. Burke pitched eight innings of scoreless baseball, allowing five hits and striking out five.
Western, with four conference setbacks, has already surpassed its GNAC loss total from 2012, when the Wolves dropped just three league contests. Walker said the biggest issue for his squad is its preparation in Game 2.
"The biggest thing for this club to get over the hump is to just be relentless with what we're doing," the first-year head coach said. "We have to find a way between Game 1 and Game 2 to be ready to go. If we can do that, I really like this club, I really do."