NAMPA, Idaho – It all came down to one last game to see who would advance past the NCAA West Regional and to the NCAA National Championships.
The 23rd-ranked Western Oregon University baseball team rallied in the middle innings but couldn’t come all the way back against No. 15 Northwest Nazarene, which claimed the 12-6 win on Saturday to clinch the West Region title.
NNU (34-8) came out right away and plated five runs in the first inning.
WOU (22-8), playing as the home team on Saturday, were trailing 6-0 into the bottom of the third before getting on the board. With one out, Derek Maiben singled to right-center and later stole second. After the second out was recorded, Connor McCord hit a deep drive to center for an RBI double to cut into NNU’s lead.
The Nighthawks pushed across four more runs in the fifth on a pair of two-run homers to move ahead 10-1. It ended up being a big fifth inning for both teams, with WOU answering back with five runs in the home half. With two outs quickly recorded, WOU put together an impressive two-out rally.
Derek Maiben battled back from an 0-2 count to draw a walk. Jacob Maiben singled on the first pitch to right-center. McCord added a single through the right side to bring in Derek Maiben. Josh Berman walked to load the bases. Following a pitching change, Justyn Herzog was hit-by-pitch on the first offering he saw to bring in a run. Anthony Zellner capped the big inning with a bases-clearing double to left for three RBIs and pulled WOU to within four at 10-6.
It was the second straight day in which Zellner had recorded a bases-clearing double. NNU tallied runs in the sixth and eighth innings both off solo home runs to move out to a 12-6 lead. The Wolves couldn’t get much going offensively after the fifth inning. Blayze Arcano was hit-by-pitch in the sixth but was left stranded at third. In the seventh, McCord walked before three straight outs were recorded. WOU then had to face Nate Ethridge over the final two innings, as the Wolves got a single by Tyler Brandenburg in the eighth, but that would be it over the final two innings with the Nighthawks claiming the 12-6 win.
It’s the third time in program history that the Wolves have won two games in regional play, also occurring in 2006 and 2005. Overall, WOU now has seven wins in NCAA regional play as this was their first trip to the postseason since 2012.
The Wolves finished the season 22-8 overall, going 8-2 at home, 13-6 on the road and 1-0 in neutral games. Their only neutral game was the 16-5 win over Azusa Pacific that eliminated the Cougars and was the most runs scored in program history in a regional game.