PORTLAND, OR – As February quickly approaches and the first pitch gets closer, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Preseason Poll was released on Friday with the Western Oregon University baseball team selected to finish second.
WOU scored 19 points to finish second, with Northwest Nazarene winning the conference with 24 points and four votes in first place. Central Washington followed WOU in third place with 15 points and the other in first place. Montana State Billings finished fourth with 10 points and Saint Martin’s fifth with seven points.
It was a close battle until the end in 2021, with Northwest Nazarene and Western Oregon going 1-2 all season. The Nighthawks stopped the Wolves from winning the two-game conference title as the teams were unable to play their final regular season series in Monmouth due to COVID protocols.
That later set up an epic NCAA Division II West Regional hosted by NNU in Nampa. NNU, WOU and Azusa Pacific were the three teams that were selected to participate in the postseason tournament. WOU and NNU opened the regional game against each other and a pitching duel followed with the Wolves bringing in two runs in the ninth to take the 2-1 victory. WOU then rolled to a 16-5 win over Azusa Pacific to move on and face Northwest Nazarene again. The Nighthawks rallied this time in the ninth to take the 7-5 victory to force the teams into a winner-take-all final the next day. NNU started early and held off the Wolves for the 12-6 win in the regional championship game.
Connor McCord and Mike Peterson each were named All-Region by the NCBWA and ABCA. McCord finished the year and his career in style leading WOU in multiple categories, including batting average (0.418), OPS (1.449), doubles (12), home runs (11), RBI (41), slugging percentage (0.912), walk ( 22), on-base percentage (.537) and struckout only 10 batters in 91 at bats. He was also named the GNAC Player of the Year.
Peterson helped anchor a strong pitching staff as he led the Wolves in 6-0 wins, innings (49), starts (8) and tie for the team leader in appearances (9). Peterson had a 3.31 ERA and struckout 35 batters to only 13 walks. He was also named the GNAC Pitcher of the Year.
Offensively, WOU returns multiple players from the 2021 season. Derek Maiben was second on the team with a .400 batting average and will be back for the Wolves. He also added a team-high 50 hits, 34 runs scored and drove in 20 runs. He struckout only four batters in 125 at bats. He also led the team in steals with seven. Derek was named to the All-GNAC First Team. Twin brother Jacob Maiben will come back next season after hitting .337 with 35 hits, seven doubles and 16 RBI. Jacob was named to the All-GNAC Second Team. Justyn Herzog returns for the Wolves after collecting 24 hits, four home runs and 17 RBI in 2021. Anthony Zellner posted a .320 average in 18 games in 2021 and will again be behind the plate for the Wolves. He added five doubles and drove in 17.
Josh Berman and Blayze Arcano finished their career with strong 2021 seasons with Berman hitting .354 with eight home runs and 26 RBI, while Arcano added a .342 average with seven home runs and 39 RBI. Arcano was also named NCBWA National Player of the Week on May 5 for this road performance at Montana State Billings. Several others concluded their WOU careers strongly with Hunter Johnson hitting .344, David Gibons at .341, Sam Jones with an average of .324, Jayden Hanna and Spencer Weston at .286, Tyler Brandenburg a .265 and Hank Forrest at .261. Ryan Santa Cruz played behind the plate in 13 games.
Next to Peterson on the hill will have WOU Matthew Dunaway back after also putting together a major 2021 season. The righthander led the starting staff in ERA (3.06) and strikeouts (49), threw 32.1 innings and went 3-1 in eight games in total with seven starts. He kept opponents at a batting average of .175. Dunaway was named All-GNAC Second Team. Michael Moore had the highest ERA out of the bullpen at 1.42 in 6.1 innings of work. Seth Kuykendall will also come back for the Wolves after going 3-0 as reliever and starter. He threw 20 innings and struckout 20 batters and walked only five batters. Joe Kinsky is also back for the Wolves after pitching seven games and 12.1 innings. He went 1-0 into the season.
Nick Parr, Nathan Bonck, Ryan Shipley, Alan Vasquez and Logan Hatley they all ended their careers in 2021. Parr went 4-0 in 33.1 innings. Bonck added three saves in eight appearances. Shipley went 2-0 with a save in six appearances, including one start. Vasquez also made three saves in nine appearances, including one start. Hatley appeared in eight games, including six starts, hitting 27.2 innings to tie the season 2-2.
WOU will open the California 2022 season in early February at Fresno Pacific on February 3-5. Another trip to California will follow on February 11-13 to take on Stanislaus State. The first home games of the 2022 season will arrive on February 19-20, when the Wolves host Eastern Oregon. A non-conference doubleheader in Central Washington will conclude February before WOU opens the GNAC game March 4-5 against Montana State Billings in Monmouth. After a single match at George Fox a few days later, WOU will host Central Washington for more GNAC action on March 12-13. WOU takes on Northwest Nazarene on March 18-19 in Nampa and returns home on March 22 to host Bushnell. In early April, Saint Martin’s welcomes Monmouth for a pair of double conference headers on April 2-3. A single George Fox home game will arrive a few days later on April 5 before a road leg will follow. WOU will play in Montana State Billings April 8-9, then in Central Washington April 15-16 before the road trip concludes with a single game in Bushnell on April 19. The senior weekend arrives April 22-23 when WOU hosts Northwest Nazarene and the regular season ends May 5-6 at Saint Martin’s. WOU will host this year’s GNAC Championships in Monmouth, taking place May 12-13.