(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)
MONMOUTH, Ore. – A vintage Dylan Barkley postseason start and a big day at the plate by leadoff hitter Carson Green led the Montana State University Billings baseball team to a 5-2 win over host Western Oregon University in the opening game of the 2022 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championships on Thursday at the WOU baseball field.
The senior left-hander allowed two runs – one earned – on six hits while striking out three in seven stellar innings of work to earn his sixth victory of the year. “Being back in the playoffs, it’s a completely different atmosphere,” said Barkley, who earned the win at the 2019 GNAC Championships in the title-clinching game the last time the Yellowjackets reached the postseason. “You can tell everyone is excited to be here. It’s electric and it’s fun.”
The teams had to endure a nearly six-hour rain delay, as Thursday’s game was initially scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and kick off a slate of three ballgames. Instead, first pitch occurred at 3:56 p.m. (Pacific) and it was the lone game of the tournament played Thursday. “It was a long day with the delays, but at the end of the day our guys showed the resilience they have all year and I am proud of them,” said MSUB head coach Derek Waddoups, after his first-career playoff game and victory. “It’s postseason baseball, and anything can happen. I was just excited to see our guys compete to their capabilities. It was a good team win today with different guys stepping up at different times.”
Green reached base in 3 of 4 plate appearances, including his eighth home run of the year in the top of the seventh inning to extend MSUB’s advantage to 5-2. “I was pretty excited, and after the delay all day we had to pump the guys up,” said Green, who missed the final day of the regular season with a significant leg injury sustained last Friday. “I just grinded through, and I knew I wasn’t going to miss this game no matter what. I was happy just get out there after not being able to play for a week. It was a good team win, everyone was jacked up the whole game, and Barkley and (Connor) Redmond pitched well. It was a lot of fun.”
The Yellowjackets (26-25) will play No. 1 Seed Northwest Nazarene at 9:30 a.m. on Friday morning with the winner earning a spot in the championship game. By virtue of Thursday’s win, MSUB is guaranteed at least one game on the final day of the tournament on Saturday. Live video will be available online here [youtube.com] and live statistics will be available online here [wouwolves.com].
2022 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Baseball Championships
May 12-14 – Western Oregon University Baseball Field – Monmouth, Oregon (all times listed Pacific)
Thursday, May 12
Game 1 – No. 3 Seed MSU Billings 5, No. 2 Seed Western Oregon 2
Friday, May 13
Game 2 – 9:30 a.m. – No. 3 Seed MSU Billings vs. No. 1 Seed Northwest Nazarene
Game 3 – 12:30 p.m. – No. 2 Seed Western Oregon vs. No. 1 Seed Northwest Nazarene
Saturday, May 14
Game 4 – Noon
Game 5 – 3 p.m. (If Necessary)
The Yellowjackets beat GNAC Pitcher of the Year Arturo Alvarez, who suffered his first defeat of the season on Thursday and fell to 7-1. The righty, who was also named the GNAC Newcomer of the Year, gave up four runs – one earned – on three hits with four strikeouts and a walk in his 5 1/3 innings of work. Justyn Herzog and Derek Maiben each had a pair of hits, while Logan Ho drew three walks to lead the Wolves at the plate. WOU fell to 31-18 on the season with the loss.
The Wolves struck first, stringing together three consecutive base hits to pull ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning. Barkley handled the early pressure well, ending the threat with back-to-back strikeouts to strand runners on the corners and get out of the jam. The missed opportunity was to be a recurring theme for WOU, which stranded a dozen baserunners throughout the game. “I have pitched against Western Oregon a lot, and each time Coach (Matt) Hape has had an excellent gameplan,” said Barkley, who made his eighth career start against WOU and got through seven innings for the third time. “They got runners on base, but I felt that if I could make good pitches and was confident in my abilities that I’d get out of it. I also have a fantastic defense behind me, and they made a lot of big plays to get out of innings.”
The Yellowjackets took advantage of a defensive miscue by WOU to start the third inning, and scored three unearned runs to take their first lead of the tournament. Green drove in the first run with a base hit up the middle, before James Anderson followed with a sacrifice fly to bring home Justin Lutz from third. Perhaps the biggest play of the inning was Green stealing his 10th base of the season, as it set up a two-out, RBI-single off the bat of Cooper Dulich to cap the scoring. “I just knew I needed to put the ball hard in play,” Green commented regarding his base hit to open the scoring. “Lutz and Babs did good job of getting on base, I got a good pitch to hit, and it ended up working out.”
WOU answered back immediately however, with an MSUB error prolonging the bottom of the third long enough for John Stark to rip an RBI-single into the left-field corner to make the score 3-2. The Wolves threatened to pull even in the fifth with back-to-back singles to start the inning, but Barkley once again got out of trouble by retiring the next three hitters including his third strikeout of the day. “We had so many delays today, I didn’t feel great and didn’t have my best bullpen,” Barkley said on a rollercoaster ride of preparation for the important start. “I got on the mound, found a couple things that worked well, and went with it. After that second inning my stuff felt great, and I was good after that.”
The ‘Jackets created breathing room in the top of the sixth, again manufacturing a run thanks in large part to a stolen base this time by Dulich. The GNAC Freshman of the Year’s swipe of second with two outs was followed by an RBI-single by Tyler Godfrey that made the score 4-2. Godfrey’s clutch knock came off reliever Sebastian Boivin, who replaced Alvarez with one out in the sixth and gave up one run on two hits with three strikeouts and a walk.
A string of seven straight hitters retired by Barkley ended with a one-out walk in the bottom of the seventh drawn by Herzog. The Wolves brought the tying run to the plate, but Barkley stranded a pair for the third time by coaxing a pop up off the bat of Jackson Holstad to keep the three-run advantage intact. “Barkley was outstanding today, and when he had opportunities to minimize innings he did,” said Waddoups, after Barkley threw 111 pitches in the victory. “The composure he pitches with is huge. He did a good job of controlling his emotions, especially giving up the one early. That inning could have snowballed, but he kind of rolled after that and kept going. He did fantastic, and had some of his best stuff he’s had all year.”
The final blow was delivered by Green with one out in the seventh, with his long, solo home run to left field coming on an 0-2 pitch from Boivin. “He got ahead of me with two fastballs that I swung through, and then he tried to challenge with a third,” Green said, describing the at-bat. “Right off the bat I kind of knew it was gone. I was really fired up, and am glad I got the opportunity to do that for our guys. I am glad we came out with a first-game win.”
“He’s been our sparkplug all year, and I am just excited to have him in the lineup,” Waddoups said on Green, whose 34 RBIs are fourth-most on the team. “He took some really good at-bats and kept it moving for us. The home run late really energized us, and it was good to push a run across to extend the lead.”
Bryce Bond kept the deficit manageable for WOU late, striking out the side in the top of the eighth and retiring all six hitters he faced to give his team a chance at a comeback.
After making 20 starts in MSUB’s rotation over the last two seasons, senior right-hander Connor Redmond came out of the bullpen for the first time in his MSUB career and for the first time since the 2018 season to collect a two-inning save. The Yellowjackets avoided disaster in the top of the ninth, when a chance to turn a double play slipped past Godfrey and into right field. WOU’s Derek Maiben lost his footing rounding the bag at second however, and the ‘Jackets were able to nab the speedster to avoid bringing the tying run to the plate. Redmond completed the win by beating Holstad to first base on an assist from Anderson.