Streaking SMU on postseason’s edge

After a doubleheader sweep, the Saints need two more Ws and some help to make the playoffs

mwochnick@theolympian.comMay 3, 2014 

LACEY — Saint Martin’s University can sniff the baseball postseason after the Saints did their job and won both games of Friday’s doubleheader against Central Washington – 11-4 and 3-1 – at Saints Field.

And you can bet SMU and its fans will also pay attention to what’s happening 850 miles away on Saturday.

“We’re big Billings fans,” Saints coach Ken Garland said.

Garland is referring to Montana State Billings, which can help the Saints by at least splitting its Saturday doubleheader with Northwest Nazarene in Billings, Mont. But, again, SMU must take care of business by defeating the Wildcats — preferably a sweep, coupled with some help — in Lacey on Saturday for the third and final playoff spot into the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament May 8-9.

Should the Saints and Northwest Nazarene (both at 13-17 in the GNAC) finish tied for third after Saturday, NNU wins the tiebreaker based on head-to-head results (the Crusaders won six of eight against SMU this season).

The Saints (17-28 overall) picked a perfect time to get hot. Friday’s sweep stretched their season-best winning streak to four games, and they’ve now won eight of their past 12. The four straight wins have also come against opponents with above-.500 records: GNAC regular-season champion Western Oregon and the Wildcats, the conference’s second-place team.

Infielder Travis Shaw said the maturation process of the young team and overall mindset has

changed in recent weeks, leading to on-field success.

“We’re hitting, we’re being more aggressive, pitchers are throwing strikes and defense is making plays,” said Shaw, who ranks second on the team in hits (52) and doubles (10) this season.

“Major leaguers talk about midseason form and end-of-season form,” said catcher Chandler Tracy, the GNAC’s all-time home runs leader, “and I think we’re finally reaching midseason form.”

Behind the arm of ace Zach Carter in Game 1, the Saints’ offense opened the throttle for a six-run seventh inning – sending 11 batters to the plate – to take a commanding 11-4 lead. That was enough run support for Carter, who threw a nine-inning complete game and struck out four to earn his team-high sixth victory.

Shaw’s two-run triple in the fourth inning of Game 2 gave the Saints insurance runs after leading 1-0. Junior Josh Moss, a Rochester High graduate, also picked up a complete-game victory, allowing just one earned run on eight hits, with Garland noting Moss going toe-to-toe with Central starter and GNAC strikeouts leader Brandon Williams, whom he described as “the No. 1 pitcher in the conference.”

“He stepped up and showed great resiliency,” Garland said of Moss, who picked up his third win of the season. “He grew up a lot today and just being able to stay mature and comfortable on the mound.”

SOFTBALL

Saints eliminated: Saint Martin’s quest for a second straight GNAC tournament title bid fell short Friday night with its 9-1 five-inning loss to Central Washington in a loser-out game at Columbia Playfields in Richland

It was the Saints’ second game of the day following a dramatic walk-off finish in its earlier game Friday – a 4-3 come-from-behind win over Western Washington, thanks to three home runs in the seventh. Trailing 3-0, Dani Wall, Mary Dettling and Jackie Schmaeling all blasted seventh-inning home runs to send SMU to a second elimination game against Central Washington, which fell to Western Oregon in the day’s first game.

Against Central, however, the Saints were held to one run (on Sam Munger’s RBI single in the third) on five hits. SMU’s season ends at 27-22.

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 mwochnick@theolympian.com theolympian.com/ southsoundsports @megwochnick

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