BY QUIN WALKER, Staff Reporter
The Central Washington University baseball team hosted its home opener against the Northwest Nazarene Crusaders last weekend. The Crusaders (9-12, 5-3 Great Northwest Athletic Conference) visited to take part in their second GNAC series of the year, previously winning three of their last four games. The Wildcats (7-9, 3-5 GNAC) were coming off winning only one game at Western Oregon to play in front of their home crowd.
Game one saw junior pitcher Brandon Williams etch his name into the GNAC record books with a dazzling performance. Williams (3-1) pitched eight innings, striking out 15 batters, while allowing one unearned run and six hits.
The 15 strikeouts tied a GNAC record also set by Central alumni Brandon Rhode. The Wildcat batters tallied 11 hits and scored six runs, led by senior outfielder Jaykob Sells who had two RBI singles in Central’s 6-1 win.
It should also be noted Cory Welch relieved Williams in the ninth inning and tallied three strikeouts. The 18 total strikeouts are the most for the Wildcats in the Division II era. Williams was also named GNAC Pitcher of the Week.
“What a great outing. We had one error that cost him a shutout, but he had everything working,” head coach Desi Storey said. “He is a grinder and competitor out there.”
One thing that contributed to the impressive outing for Williams was a unique pitch he has in his repertoire. Williams features a screwball that is thrown consistently and dives into right-handed batters and falls away from lefties.
“He established his fastball early, and [Williams’] changeup is about 14-15 miles-per-hour slower than his fastball. It’s pretty effective when he does that, then he has the screwball,” pitching coach Rob Hippi said. “It’s a pretty unique pitch that is very effective. I’ve never had a player who has thrown it. It’s tough on lefties and righties.”
In game two and three, the Crusaders fought back against two tough starters for the Wildcats, senior Skye Adams and senior Stuart Fewel. Both pitchers received the loss in their outings, in which the Crusaders won game two 9-3 and game three 8-6. Senior Pitcher Aaron Vaughn (4-1) for Northwest Nazarene earned his fourth win of the season, giving up nine hits, but striking out seven batters in game two.
In the finale of the series, the Wildcats needed a win to earn a split. They did just that in a power brigade that seemed like it was due for the Wildcats. Homeruns by junior infielder Kasey Bielec, senior infielder Scott Stone and junior catcher Cory Welch led the Wildcats to a 6-1 victory. Senior pitcher Kurtis Pitcher earned the win. He threw 5.2 innings, giving up five hits, and one earned run for his first win of the season.
“I think our offense is starting to get better,” Storey said. “We still have a ways to go, but we are starting to see some real improvements there. We are starting to get a little more consistent there. For the most part our defense has been holding pretty steady as well. If we could just eliminate the mental errors that lead to errors, then I think we will be ok.”