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WOU Wolves Capture 10th Straight GNAC TitleSalem-News.com Sports
(Monmouth, Oregon) - The Western Oregon baseball team has seen coaches, student-athletes and even the turf change since entering NCAA Division II in 2002 but through all that one thing has remained constant; the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championship has always belonged to the Wolves.
Today it was the 2011 team's turn to place their hardware on the Wolves trophy case, as they took both games of a doubleheader from Northwest Nazarene, 4-0 and 2-1, to capture their 10th straight GNAC Championship.
The Wolves (33-13, 23-5 GNAC) entered today's contest already possessing a share of the conference title but looking for one more win to clinch the championship outright.
The only hit came in the fourth inning when Ryan VanBeek led off the inning with a single. After that point Wood retired 17 of the next 18 hitters in order, with the only runner reaching base after striking out on a ball that got past the catcher. This was the seventh straight decision Wood has won.
The Wolves' offense put up one run in the first and two more in the second in support of Wood. Michael Chiarelli got WOU on the board in the first with a two-out RBI single to left. Then after Steve Ockerman led off the second with a triple to deep center, Josh Solemsaas roped a double just inside the first base bag to score Ockerman. Solemsaas would come in to score later in the inning on a double by Grant Glover.
The double was one of three hits for Glover as the Wolves outhit NNU 10-1 in the contest. Griffin Boyd and Solemsaas added two hits apiece, while AJ Royal belted his first homer in a Wolves' uniform in the fourth inning.
"When the team sets goals for itself we love to see them achieve those goals, especially with a huge bull's eye on their back all season," Robbins explained. "When you have one the conference a few times like us, everyone wants to be that team to knock you off, so in a sense this team is playing for its own conference championship but also defending some history."
"This team definitely deserved this league title," continued Robbins. "It is tough conference this year, and they grinded through it."
The Crusaders (31-17, 16-16 GNAC) mounted a threat early in the game with one out. Ty Windall reached base on an error, then Wood walked the next batter but was able to get a fly ball to center field and a groundout to first to diffuse the rally.
The Wolves had just three hits in the game but made the most of their run scoring opportunities. They scored both runs in the fourth inning after the first three batters of the inning reached to load the bases. Daniel Dillard would come across to plate the first run of the game on a passed ball, and then Justin Peterson came home on a sacrifice fly by Michael Chiarelli to put Western Oregon up 2-0.
NNU scored its only run on a sacrifice fly. Lind would give way to Ian MacDougall with one on and two out in the sixth, who promptly got the pinch hitter Drew Drlik to foul out to the first baseman. He stayed in the game for the seventh to lock down his first save of the season.
"What a phenomenal performance by Lind to come in game two and throw that way with our hitters being a little sleepy," Robbins said. "All three of the pitchers we used today were bulldogs on the mound."
Daniel Dillard had two doubles down the left field line to account for two of the Wolves' three hits.
The win gave the Wolves their sixth straight series victory as they took three of four from the Crusaders.
"This was a very good NNU team that we were able to get the series from," Robbins noted. "I was very impressed with the way they battled us and how they pitched. We got a true test of what I have been talking about on Wolves Weekly about how good their arms are."
"I am excited about MSU Billings coming in, it is going to be our Senior Day, and I am excited to see what we can do with these final four games at home," Robbins said.
"The season isn't over yet but to get that one goal of a conference championship is huge for the members of this team," Robbins continued. "To achieve the goal of the conference title was definitely a feather in our cap but now we are going onto our next goal and that is to continue our season."
Source: Western Oregon University
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