NCAA Division II GNAC: 2020 Season Preview

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Central Washington University – Ellensburg, WA

Head Coach: Desi Storey (29th year)
Assistants: Ken Wilson, Kellen Camus
Affiliation: NCAA Divison II
Conference: GNAC
2019 Record: 16-31 overall; 13-27 in conference
2020 Opening Day: January 31st at Stanislaus State in Turlock, CA
2020 League Opener: February 28th vs. Northwest Nazarene in Ellensburg, WA
Top Newcomers:
Brayde Hirai, JR, LHP, Walla Walla CC
Derek Lohr, JR, SS, Coppin State University
JJ Lemming, JR, RHP, Grays Harbor CC
What Baseball Northwest has to say about the 2020 season:
The 2020 season will be the 29th for Desi Storey as head coach at Central Washington. 471 wins, 11 winning seasons, and six runner-up conference finishes highlight his career. Coach Storey is the longest tenured head coach in the Northwest.
Two position player All-GNAC selections and three experienced starting pitchers headline the returning Wildcats. 1st Team senior outfielder Justin Hampson hit .317, was 6th in the league in doubles, and 10th in on-base percentage. 2nd Team junior infielder Mitch Lesmeister was 5th in the GNAC (.353) in hitting, 2nd in on-base percentage (.468), 8th in total bases, and 10th in slugging. Canadian senior RHP Tyler Hoefer (12 starts), BBNW alum senior RHP Hunter French (11 starts, 3 CG), and local product senior LHP Dillon Larsen are proven contributors. Larsen began his college career at Central as a freshman and now returns after years at Lane CC and Virginia Tech. BBNW Washington class of 2016 #18 ranked top prospect Jaden Hassell hopes to return to his 2018 form where he hit .292. Another alum on the pitching staff, JJ Asinas, got 3 wins in 15 bullpen appearances.
Another D1 transfer and BBNW alum heads the new players, Derek Lohr, who transfers from Coppin State University where he was named 2018 1st Team All-Conference and league Rookie of the Year. He was also a Collegiate Baseball freshman All-American. He led the MEAC league in hitting. Another BBNW alum Brayde Hirai comes from Walla Walla CC where he made 10 starts with 67 strikeouts in 50 innings. Lemming should get key innings in his first year. He was a two-time league MVP at Steilacoom HS (WA). The three quality Central arms—Larsen, Hoefer, and French will draw professional attention.
CW had seven players selected for the 2019 All-GNAC Academic Team including returners Hassell, Hoefer, Yi-an Pan, and Lesmeister.
A ten-game road schedule including seven games in northern California kicks off the 2020 season. The Wildcats go to Billings March 13-14 for an important GNAC showdown. Go Wildcats!
CW Alumni currently playing professionally:
Jake Forrester, AZL Indians Red, Rookie, Cleveland Indians, drafted in 2019, BBNW alum
Top Prospects previously ranked by BBNW:
Washington Class of 2016: #18 Jaden Hassell
BBNW Alumni on 2020 Roster:

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Saint Martin’s University – Lacey, WA

Head Coach: Kelly Gau (2nd year)
Assistants: Joey Swanson, Andy Forgione, Luke Hare

Affiliation: NCAA Division II
Conference: GNAC
2019 Record: 21-32 overall; 15-25 in conference
2020 Opening Day: February 7th vs. Holy Names in Oakland, CA
2020 League Opener: February 29th vs. Concordia University in Portland, OR
Top Newcomers:
Derek Alumbaugh, RS-SO, RHP, Skagit Valley College
Harrison Goebel, GR-SR, RHP, Northern Arizona
Drew Rose, FR, RHP, South Bend HS
Troy McCormick, FR, RHP, North Mason HS
Justice Yamashita, FR, RHP, Maryknoll HS
What Baseball Northwest has to say about the 2020 season:
Coach Gau’s leadership produced a 2019 season that was the best for the Saints since 2011. They took advantage of their first GNAC Tournament since 2014 to make a run to the championship game before losing to Montana State Billings. Pitching (2nd in league) and defense (1st in league) fueled the 2019 run and the Saints hope to keep that momentum going in 2020. The anchor of the pitching should be Hawaiian Tanner Inouye who is coming off 1st Team All-Conference and 2nd Team All-West Region selections while producing a 6th in league ERA of 4.58 in 13 starts. He was also 2nd in league strikeouts and 5th in innings pitched; batters hit only .230 off him. Inouye’s strong 2019 season has made professional scouts take notice. BBNW alum LHP Benjamin Wadowski returns the next most innings (41), starts (8), and wins (3). Replacing quality innings on the mound will be a big key for Saint Martin’s this year. Five new arms (3 freshmen and two transfers) include BBNW alums Derek Alumbaugh (Skagit Valley College), and Troy McCormick (North Mason HS), with Alaskan Harrison Goebel, Drew Rose, and Hawaiian Justice Yamashita as the most ready to produce in 2020. Four Hawaiian natives also lead the returners offensive and defensive production from a year ago: 1B Aaron Renaud (2nd Team All-GNAC), SS Ryne Oshiro  (All-GNAC Honorable Mention), 3B Micah McNicoll (All-GNAC Honorable Mention), and catcher Bryant Nakagawa. Renaud in his freshman year hit .319 (10th in league) and was a standout defender. Oshiro hit .283 and started every game. McNicoll is the team’s only four-year starter and hit .282 and slugged .396. Nakagawa missed the early part of 2019 with an injury, but his return had a huge impact on the Saints’ late season run. Two other BBNW alumni: junior 2B Isaac Hegamin (45 games), and junior catcher Dakota Hill (32 games) got valuable experience last year.
Eleven Saints were named to the 2019 GNAC All-Academic Team (a school record) and include returners McNicoll, Hegamin, Hill, Inouye, Nakagawa, and Oshiro.
A two-weekend series to Northern California at Holy Names University and Academy of Art will kick off the season. The first conference series begins February 29th at Concordia. March 7-8 brings defending 2019 champions MSU Billings to Saints Field. Go Saints!
BBNW Alumni on Roster: 14

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Montana State University – Billings, MT

Head Coach: Derek Waddoups (1st year)
Assistants: Riley Drongesen, Matt Hape, Eric Morgan
Affiliation: NCAA Division II
Conference: GNAC
2019 Record: 33-20 overall; 30-10 in conference
2020 Opening Day: January 31st vs. Point Loma in San Diego, CA
2020 League Opener: February 29th vs. Western Oregon University in Monmouth, OR
Top Newcomers:
Tanner Parker, SR, INF, Middle Tennessee State Univ
Nate Bloxham, JR, OF, Miles CC
Mason Abrath, JR, RHP, Salt Lake CC
Braeden Bentley, JR, RHP, San Diego Mesa College
Cort Dietrich, JR, RHP, Spokane Falls CC
What BBNW has to say about the 2020 season:
New head coach Derek Waddoups comes to Billings with 15 years of college coaching experience and becomes MSUB’s 4th head coach since the program’s inception in 2006. Derek comes from Salt Lake CC where he was the recruiting coordinator and hitting coach for 10 years. Very popular and successful Aaron Sutton moved in December to the Minnesota Twins as a minor league manager. Coach Sutton won 89 games in his three seasons as a Yellowjacket. Hitting coach Ryan Wright will also be missed having joined the Toronto Blue Jays organization.
The Yellowjackets have won the conference regular season title the last 4 years and are coming off their best season ever with their first appearance in the NCAA D2 West Region Championships. MSUB set 16 single team records including 3 conference team records last year. They are picked to repeat in 2020. A huge part of last year’s offense returns to Billings led by senior Daniel Cipriano from California. The GNAC Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, 2nd Team All-American, and First Team All-West Region first baseman was conference leader in batting average (.405), runs (59), home runs (18), RBIs (52), slugging (.827), and total bases (139). Two previously ranked BBNW top prospects, who also had outstanding years in 2019, return at the top of the order: Junior Idaho native shortstop Wyatt Setian, a 2nd Team All-Region and 1st Team GNAC selection, had 71 hits (1st in league), 19 doubles (1st in league), 12 home runs (3rd in league), and 48 RBIs (3rd in league). Senior Oregon native third baseman Chris Arpan was 3rd in league batting average (.357), 3rd in slugging (.643), and 4th in home runs (10) while gaining 2nd Team All-GNAC and 2nd Team All-Region honors.  Another First Team All-Conference member and in-state senior catcher Andrew Schleusner hit .293 in 39 starts and had solid defensive numbers. Cipriano, Schleusner, Arpan, and Setian have drawn some professional interest. Tyler Detloff, a senior outfielder was also a consistent offensive performer. The offense is expected to have some depth with the addition of Middle Tennessee State transfer Tanner Parker and Miles CC transfer Nate Bloxham. They are also expected to lift the defense that was last in the GNAC a year ago.
MSUB will rely on a few returning arms from 2019, but hope to get many quality innings out of newcomer arms. Montana-product sophomore LHP Dylan Barkley won 7 games in 13 starts in 2019, and should be a starter again in 2020. Oregonian Sam Muskat plans to contribute effective bullpen numbers once again after his 4 saves in 2019. Three new JC pitchers will be a key to the 2020 staff—Mason Abrath, Braeden Bentley, and Cort Dietrich. Two pitchers that were effective for the Yellowjackets in 2019 will be redshirting in 2020: Keven Mackintosh and Brooks Zimmer (2 wins, 6 saves).
The 2019 Yellowjackets are one of two GNAC schools who won the Team Academic Excellence Award given by the American Baseball Coaches Association. Senior LHP Sam Muskat is the only returner named to the 2019 GNAC All-Academic team.
The Yellowjackets play at Dehler Park, which they share with the Billings Mustangs, the short season Pioneer League affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. Key GNAC series begins early at Western Oregon February 29th.

BBNW welcomes to the Northwest Coach Waddoups, his wife Carly, and their 2 daughters and 2 sons. Go Yellowjackets!
Top Prospects previously ranked by BBNW:
Oregon Class of 2016 #21 Chris Arpan, Idaho/Montana Class of 2017 #8 Wyatt Setian, Idaho/Montana Class of 2018 #9 Brooks Zimmer
BBNW Alumni on 2020 Roster: 26


Western Oregon University – Monmouth, OR

Head Coach: Kellen Walker (8th year)
Trevor Podratz, Grady Wood, Nate Etheridge
NCAA Division II
2019 Record: 30-13 overall; 26-11 in conference
2020 Opening Day: February 7th vs. Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, ID
2020 League Opener: February 29th vs. Montana State University-Billings in Monmouth, OR
Top Newcomers:
Alan Vasquez- Sr./RHP/San Bernadino
Mike Peterson- Jr./RHP/Walla Walla CC
Luke Turner- Jr./RHP/Miles CC
David Gibons- Jr./RHP/1B/Edmonds CC
What Baseball Northwest has to say about the 2020 season:
Head Coach Kellen Walker begins his 8th season with 212 overall wins, 168 in conference. He also has four GNAC titles with the Wolves, including back-to-back crowns in 2017 and 2018. The Wolves finished 2nd in conference play behind MSUB in 2019, closing out the season with an 11-1 run.  Walker and the Wolves now look to pick up where they left off, welcoming many new faces for the 2020 season, after being hit hard from graduation and the MLB draft.
In 2019, the Wolves led the GNAC in team hitting and team pitching, while being 2nd in team fielding. The two-way contribution of senior LHP/1B Connor McCord will have a big impact in 2020. The 1st Team All-GNAC selection hit .303 last year and his 42 RBIs were 2nd on the team and 4th in the conference. His top returning ERA of 2.33 resulted in one win and three saves in 38 innings. BBNW alumni twin brothers, outfielder Jacob Maiben  and infielder Derek Maiben had solid freshmen years. Jacob was selected GNAC Freshman of the Year and 2nd team All-Conference after hitting .398 in 103 at-bats while only striking out 4 times. Derek was a GNAC Honorable Mention, after hitting .387 in 93 at-bats with 8 steals. Senior Hawaii native outfielder Blayze Arcano, another 2nd Team All-GNAC selection, hit .302 in 42 games. Senior infielder Mitch Hulse who slugged .500 in 66 at-bats and senior outfielder Josh McIntyre who hit .309 in 55 at-bats could add to the offense.
Two other junior BBNW alums added good bullpen depth in 2019: Kolby Bales won 3 games with a 3.29 ERA in 17 innings, while Dylan Myers had 3 wins and a save and was a GNAC Honorable Mention. BBNW alumni Mike Peterson from Walla Walla CC and David Gibons from Edmonds CC highlight eleven new upperclassmen pitchers added to the Wolves program for 2020. Two other top transfer arms are Alan Vasquez from Cal State San Bernadino and Luke Turner from Miles CC. Other mound depth could come from JC transfers and BBNW alumni Seth Kuykendall and Mike Moore. Mike Moore was previously ranked #15 by Baseball Northwest for the Oregon Class of 2017.
Five Wolves earned GNAC All-Academic honors in 2019 including returners Myers and Cam Nowack, a senior catcher.
Western had four players drafted and signed in the 2019 MLB draft which was the most of any Northwest small college for that year, including junior pitchers Alex Roth and Austin Crowson. Also drafted were catcher Jerad McDonald and Koty Fallon. They join Spenser Watkins and BBNW alum DJ Johnson as being active in professional baseball in 2019. Johnson made his major league debut in 2018.
Western Oregon will miss former Associate Head Coach and Pitching Coach Mike McInerney who left to take the head coach position at Eastern Oregon University. They will begin play in the spring of 2021 in the NAIA Cascade conference.
The home-and-home series with defending champion MSU-Billings will go along way to determine the No. 1 seed in the GNAC Tournament. The Yellowjackets come to Monmouth February 29th and the Wolves travel to Billings beginning April 10th. Western Oregon is a strong candidate to return to the GNAC Tournament. Go Wolves!
Western Oregon Alumni currently playing professionally:
Alex Roth, Bristol Pirates, Rookie Advanced, Pittsburgh Pirates, drafted in 2019
Austin Crowson, GCL Phillies West, Rookie, Philadelphia Phillies, drafted in 2019
Jerad McDonald, AZL Athletics Gold, Rookie, Oakland Athletics, drafted in 2019
Koty Fallon, AZL Padres 1, Rookie, San Deigo Padres, drafted in 2019
Spenser Watkins, Toledo Mud Hens, Triple A, Detroit Tigers, drafted in 2014
DJ Johnson, Colorado Rockies, drafted in 2010, MLB debut 9/9/18
Top Prospects previously ranked by BBNW: Oregon Class of 2017 #15 Mike Moore
BBNW Alumni on Roster:

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Concordia University – Portland, OR

Head Coach: Rob Vance (22nd year)
Assistants: Jeff Bard, James Threw, Gerhett Moser, Brian Grant
Affiliation: NCAA Division II
Conference: GNAC
2019 Record: 15-34 overall; 13-27 in conference
2020 Opening Day: February 1st vs. UC San Diego in La Jolla, CA
2020 League Opener: February 29th vs. Saint Martin’s University in Portland, OR
Top Newcomers:
Sasha Jabusch, SR, LHP, Concordia Nebraska
Max Ramirez, FR, RHP, Los Banos HS
TC Strickler, RSFR, LHP/OF, Glendale College
What Baseball Northwest has to say about the 2020 season:
Coach Vance begins his 22nd year at the helm of the Cavaliers with 428 career wins. His best year yet may have been 2014 when he led Concordia to the NAIA National Tournament. In their 5th year at the NCAA D2 level, the Cavaliers will be looking to get back to the conference tournament after a 2018 appearance.
Three All-Conference Honorable Mention position players return for the 2020 season. 3B/1B Liam Knowles is a middle of the order presence; he was 6th in the conference last year in RBIs. Shortstop BBNW alum Damon Peters had a good 2019 by leading the team in doubles, triples, home runs, and slugging percentage. Those numbers were good enough for conference postings of 7th in on-base percentage, and 9th in total bases and slugging. Another BBNW alum catcher Dominic Enbody led the Cavaliers in hitting (.285) last season.
Senior OF Payton Presley will need to lead the other returning offense to improve on Concordia’s last place finish in the conference a year ago. He is a BBNW alumni along with sophomore utility player Sam Booth, senior outfielder Jake Wikel, senior infielder Todd Reese, and sophomore catcher Isaac Lovings, who showed flashes of production in limited roles. Reese was a GNAC All-Academic Team member. Lovings’ was BBNW’s #22 ranked top prospect for the Oregon class of 2018.
Two senior pitchers should claim starting roles—LHP Kaleb Strawn and RHP Ryan Gibson. Gibson had 8 starts and two wins. Another BBNW alum Sasha Jabusch leads three new arms expected to be strong contributors. He will be a top starter and is a transfer from Concordia Nebraska. Californian Max Ramirezi is expected to get key innings as a freshman. Two-way player TC Strickler, a transfer from Glendale College, should add depth both ways.
The conference opener is February 29th vs. St Martins. A key league series will be when defending champion MSU-Billings comes to Porter Park on March 27th-29th. Go Cavaliers!
Concordia Alumni currently playing professionally:
Blake Drake, Johnson City Cardinals, Rookie Advanced, St. Louis Cardinals, drafted in 2014
Nate Esposito, Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Double A, Kansas City Royals, drafted in 2015
Top Prospects on 2020 Roster previously ranked by BBNW:
Oregon Class of 2018 #22 Isaac Lovings
BBNW Alumni on Roster:

Northwest Nazarene University – Nampa, ID

Head Coach: Joe Schaefer (2nd year)
Assistants: Matt Hollod, Billy Newberry, Sean Rooney
Affiliation: NCAA Division II
Conference: GNAC
2019 Record: 24-24 overall; 20-17 in conference

2020 Opening Day: February 7th vs. Dixie State in Los Angeles, CA
2020 League Opener: February 28th vs. Central Washington in Ellensburg, WA
Top Newcomers:
Ryan Dearing, JR, OF, Columbia Basin College, 1st team All-Conference
Ty Hueckman, SR, RHP, University of Nevada-Reno
John Gonzalez, SR, 1B, California State University Domingo Hills
Colton Moore, JR, MIF, Salt Lake CC, All-Conference
Kyle Ethridge, FR, LHP, Los Osos HS (CA)
Max Holtzclaw, JR, RHP, Shasta College, All-Conference
Kyle Gracey, SR, OF, Point Loma University
What Baseball Northwest has to say about the 2020 season:
A strong first season for Coach Schaefer and the Nighthawks in 2019 resulted in a 20 -win conference mark and a trip to the GNAC Tournament.  A 2020 run for a championship will require contribution from 25 new players and the proven production from the five core returners. In-state native and BBNW alum Parker Price leads the 2020 group, coming off a 2nd team All-Conference selection in 2019. The shortstop and BBNW’s #2 top prospect for the Idaho class of 2016 was also chosen to an All-Conference Academic Team. Canadian third baseman and All-Conference Honorable Mention Shawn Grandmont should supply middle of the order power. He was tied for 3rd in the league for doubles. Another All-Conference Academic Team member catcher Ben Johnson hit .364 in a part-time roll and should add bullpen depth. He won four games in 8 starts, 58 innings, and was 7th in league ERA (4.63). Two BBNW alums lead the returning pitching. LHP Blake McFadden, BBNW’s #8 top prospect for the Idaho class of 2016, had his 2019 season cut short with an injury. He won 3 games in 45 innings in 2018. Sophomore Nick Irwin should earn end-of-the-game key innings after his 35 innings in 17 appearances in 2019 with 3 wins, 2 saves, and a 4.58 ERA. NNU was third in conference hitting, pitching and fielding last season. They led the GNAC in stolen bases. In 2020, the transfers will look to help in all three areas. Junior outfielder Ryan Dearing and junior second baseman Colton Moore will be top-of-the-order candidates for speed and defense. Another transfer outfielder, Kyle Gracey from Point Loma should also contribute. First baseman John Gonzalez is expected to hit 4th. University of Nevada-Reno transfer Ty Hueckman, who was BBNW’s #26 top prospect for the Oregon class of 2016, should claim a starting rotation spot. Max Holtzclaw should strengthen the back end of the bullpen after a two time All-Conference career at Shasta College. Fellow Californian freshman lefthander Kyle Ethridge is also a starting pitcher candidate.
Price, Grandmont, Gonzalez, and Hueckman will get professional scout consideration.
The Nighthawks received an American Baseball Coaches Association Academic Scholarship Award in 2019. They were first in team GNAC GPA with a 3.26 mark.
GNAC league play begins on the road at Central Washington on February 28th. A key conference matchup will be at 2019 Champion MSU-Billings on March 20-21. NNU looks forward to hosting the GNAC Tournament on May 6-8. Go Crusaders!
NNU Alumni currently playing professionally: Zach Penrod, AZL Rangers, Rookie, Texas Rangers, signed in 2018, BBNW alum
Top Prospects on 2020 Roster previously ranked by BBNW:
Idaho Class of 2016 #2 Parker Price, #8 Blake McFadden
Oregon Class of 2016 #26 Ty Hueckman
Class of 2020 BBNW Alumni committed to NNU: Joe Ihli, Nampa Christian HS
BBNW Alumni on Roster:

These season previews were compiled by Jeff McKay, Josh Warner, and Annie Warner.

View other conference’s season previews here:
Northwest Conference (NCAA Division III), beginning Wednesday, January 29th
NCAA Division I, beginning Friday, February 7th
NWAC Week, beginning Monday, February 17th