(MSUB Athletics)

Evan O’Kelly, MSUB Athletics

PORTLAND, Ore. – A complete game by Tristan Shockley and eight runs in the first three innings of Game 2 helped the Montana State University Billings baseball team split a Great Northwest Athletic Conference doubleheader at Concordia University Thursday night at Porter Park.

The ’Jackets (18-26, 16-18 GNAC) got all of their scoring out of the way early in an 8-3 Game 2 win, after dropping the opener to the Cavaliers (12-32, 10-24 GNAC) 14-6 in a twi-night doubleheader. “It was great for our guys to bounce back after Game 1,” said MSUB head coach Aaron Sutton. “I thought we had a lot of really good at-bats without anything to show in that one. Tristan really built off his last outing. He commanded all three pitches, and set the tempo for our team. We have a great opportunity tomorrow to come out and take care of business.”

Jalen Garcia went 3-for-4 in Game 2 for the ‘Jackets, and Max Hartgraves drove in three runs total in the doubleheader to pace MSUB at the plate. Andrew Barrera went 4-for-8 in the doubleheader for the Cavaliers, and James Brooks recorded nine of his 10 outs by way of the strike out in 3 1/3 relief innings in Game 1.

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Game 1 – Concordia 14, MSU Billings 6

The Cavaliers scored early and never relinquished the lead, but did not pull away until a four-run seventh inning backed up by a three-run eighth. After the top of the seventh, MSUB trailed just 7-6 before CU ran away late for the win.

Ryan Myers got the scoring started for MSUB right away, with a double in the first. The junior wound up 2-for-2 in the game, and also drew a pair of walks.

Hartgraves plated a pair with a two-run double in the top of the second, but Concordia struck with its first big inning of the day in the bottom of the frame. Four different Cavaliers had RBIs in the inning, all of which came with one out.

MSUB reliever Sam Muskat helped limit the damage, striking out three and allowing just two runs over 4 1/3 stellar relief innings out of the bullpen in the middle innings.

The ‘Jackets set themselves up for a comeback in the top of the sixth, on back-to-back RBI-walks by Zach Robinson and Casey Merritt. MSUB stranded the bases loaded however, and still trailed 6-5 by the end of the frame. A two-out, RBI-single by Conner Linebarger in the top of the seventh helped MSUB keep pace and stay within a single run, but the Cavaliers raced ahead for good with four more in the seventh. CU had just one hit in its big inning, as three walks and two errors by the ‘Jackets helped fuel the game-deciding rally.

The home team put the game out of reach by adding on in the eighth, this time on an RBI-triple by Barrera, an RBI-double by Tanner Williams, and an RBI-single by Ben Koerner.

CU’s Gerhett Moser scattered five runs on five hits through 5 2/3 innings, and Brooks was dominant over the final 3 1/3 with just one run and one hit allowed.

Game 2 – MSU Billings 8, Concordia 3 (7 Innings)

MSUB wasted no time in building a lead, and Shockley needed nothing more than the early 5-0 edge that his offense provided him. The junior fired his first complete game as a ‘Jacket, allowing just three runs – two earned – on eight hits with three strikeouts and three walks. The righty was efficient with his 99 pitches, coaxing an even mix of 10 fly balls and eight ground balls throughout the game.

Tanner Watson had a two-run double in the first, and Garcia followed with a two-run base hit in the second. Another RBI by Watson on a bases-loaded walk made it 5-0 in the second, but the ‘Cavs got on board in the bottom of the inning on an RBI-single by Justin Taylor.

After a leadoff walk by Caje Golden in the top of the third, Hartgraves drilled a triple into right field, and Matt Dillon followed with an RBI-single to left to make the score 7-1. Merritt delivered an ensuing RBI-hit that proved to be MSUB’s last run-scoring knock of the game.

The ‘Cavs had trouble against Shockley the rest of the way, but managed a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth thanks to a pair of triples. Thomas Martin led off with a three-bagger to right before scoring, and Williams came through with a two-out, RBI-triple to pull the Cavaliers within five runs.

Shockley pitched around a double in the sixth and single in the seventh however, recording the final six outs of the game without issue to help the ‘Jackets secure the win.

Sam Gillenwater ate up five full innings in relief for CU, striking out three and giving up three runs on four hits. The ‘Cavs stranded 10 baserunners in the game, as Shockley did a nice job pitching around three MSUB errors and working out of troublesome situations.

THE BUZZ: Shockley was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…Merritt moved into sole possession of No. 5 in MSUB history in career hits, as he now has 135 in his four-year career with the ‘Jackets.

NEXT UP: The series will be finished Friday afternoon, with a 2 p.m. Mountain time doubleheader scheduled between the teams at Porter Park. Live video and live statistics will be available online through MSUB’s Stretch Internet portal.