NAMPA, Idaho — The Northwest Nazarene baseball program has a new single-season home run record-holder.
Senior first baseman John Gonzalez launched his 16th and 17th home runs during the Nighthawks 12-6 victory over Western Oregon on Saturday, surpassing Zach Aakhus' previous program-best of 16 hits in 2008.
Gonzalez has been red-hot over the last month, hitting .313 with 10 home runs and 18 RBI in 14 games. His streak follows a 15-game stretch over the six previous weeks where Gonzalez posted a .146 batting average and failed to hit a single home run.
"I had plenty of struggles this year to the point where I thought, 'Maybe you should just throw in the towel,'" Gonzalez said. "But I knew that that wasn't the case. I knew we had greater things looking forward. And I knew the sun was going to shine, I knew the leaves were going to bloom, and the plants were going to blossom, and now we're here, and now we're in this moment and now we're enjoying it."
"He's an older guy, he's experienced, he's been around the block a little bit," head coach Joe Schaefer said. "There was a turning point about two or three weeks ago, where he was swinging and missing a lot. He realized something had got to change, and the guy is not afraid to work."
One day before breaking the record, Gonzalez hit a dramatic game-tying three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in an elimination game at the NCAA DII West Regional. The Nighthawks rallied back to win 7-5, keeping their record-setting season alive.
"It's been a long time for me," Gonzalez explained. "I've been longing for this time to come and I couldn't have done it with any other group, honestly. It's been quite amazing. I wouldn't be here without every single one of my teammates. Literally no doubt about it."
"To be Tournament MVP last week in the conference championship tournament, and then come out here and have a couple of phenomenal games, that's who he is," Schaefer said. "He's a leader, he's got the experience, he's mature, and he shows up big when we need him."
Gonzalez thanks Schaefer, the coaching staff and his teammates for believing in him and knowing what he was capable of.
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