Saints confident in first Division II playoff run

mwochnick@theolympian.comMay 6, 2014 

When talking about his Saint Martin’s University baseball team – one that clinched its first postseason berth as a Division II program last weekend with a roster not exactly bustling with veteran players – coach Ken Garland points to key factors for the Saints’ late-season run to the playoffs.

Confidence and comfort.

“We feel really good about where we are,” Garland said. “It’s really satisfying to see the work we’ve put in, and to have the results that we’re getting.”

On Thursday, the Saints join Western Oregon and Central Washington in the three-team, two-day Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament, hosted by GNAC regular-season champion Western Oregon. The Saints (18-28) will face top-seeded Western Oregon (29-19) at 10 a.m. Thursday to begin the round-robin tourney.

Unlike the GNAC softball tournament, where the winner earns an automatic berth into the NCAA West Regionals, the winner of the baseball tournament isn’t guaranteed an NCAA berth because of the number of baseball teams in the conference (five). It means that even if the Saints win the GNAC tournament, they would need to be voted into the top six of the West Regional rankings in order to make the NCAAs.

An unlikely feat, Garland said.

‘Realistically, that may not happen for us,” he said.

But the Saints have a track record of success against Western Oregon and Central Washington. They enter the tournament on a five-game win streak – all coming against those two teams the past two weekends.

On April 4, the Saints were 9-24 overall after having lost three of four to Northwest Nazarene in Lacey, and now they are the hottest team coming into the tournament having won nine of their past 13 games.

Junior catcher Chandler Tracy said the team is “having a lot more fun” and that it’s noticeable with their laughter and relaxation in the dugout.

“We’re not pressing as much as we used to,” Tracy said. “The pitchers are performing the way they need to, we’re seeing the ball hitting-wise, and playing great defense. We’re really pleased with our performance right now.”

GNAC HONORS

Saint Martin’s baseball pitcher Josh Moss (Rochester High School) and women’s track and field athlete Megan Teigen (Northwest Christian) earned GNAC athlete of the week honors, announced Monday. Moss, pitched a complete-game eight-hitter in the Saints’ 3-1 win against Central Washington on Saturday, while Teigen ran a school-record 400 hurdles time of 1 minute, 2.31 seconds – sixth-fastest in GNAC history. It qualified her for the NCAA Division II championships.

ELSEWHERE

Colin McCusker, a Timberline High graduate, earned second-team all-Northwest Conference baseball honors as a pitcher for Pacific (Ore.) University. McCusker went 2-3 with a 2.79 ERA in 11 appearances. … Former Saint Martin’s point guard Brady Bomber was named Lynden Christian girls basketball coach. Bomber, a graduate of Lynden High, takes over for longtime coach Curt De Haan, who guided the Lyncs to eight state titles and 772 wins (most of any girls’ basketball coach in state history) in 34 years, including the Class 1A state title in March.

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

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