(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Daniel Cipriano broke the Montana State University Billings baseball career home run record on Saturday at Mountain Lion Field, but host University of Colorado Colorado Springs won both games of the doubleheader to complete a four-game sweep of the Yellowjackets.
The Mountain Lions rallied from a 7-0 deficit to win the opening game 12-10, before handing MSUB an 11-5 defeat in a six-inning series finale. The second game of the day, which was scheduled for seven innings, ended early due to MSUB’s travel schedule for its trip back to Billings.
Cipriano blasted a grand slam on the first pitch he saw in the third inning of Game 1 on Saturday, as the record-breaking 28th home run of his career was a no-doubter to left field. He broke a tie with Ryan Myers, who hit 27 home runs during his two-year career in 2017-18. Cipriano hit another home run in the second game, as he finished the day with 29 to move into a tie for No. 2 in Great Northwest Athletic Conference history with Jamie Nilsen of Central Washington University (2005-08).
Cipriano’s line of 5-for-7 with seven RBIs highlighted an otherwise frustrating day for MSUB, as the Yellowjackets’ season-opening losing skid extended to eight games with the two defeats. UCCS meanwhile improved to 4-0 on the season, starting the spring with four-straight victories on their home field over the weekend. “Cip broke the record on a grand slam, which was exciting,” said MSUB head coach Derek Waddoups. “It was another big at-bat for him and for our team. It’s exciting to go into conference play 0-0 with a fresh start next week and get things moving. We control our own destiny, and the focus is on conference play and to advance to the postseason. We are a talented group and are optimistic about the direction we are headed as a program.”
Game 1 – UC Colorado Springs 12, MSU Billings 10
The Yellowjackets struck in the top of the third inning, when Cipriano blasted the first pitch he got well over the fence in left field for his record-breaking home run. An RBI-double by Cipriano and an RBI-single from Tanner Cantwell highlighted a three-run fifth inning, as the Yellowjackets moved comfortably ahead 7-0.
MSUB starter Dylan Barkley struck out leadoff man Jake Anderson in the bottom of the fifth, making it 13 consecutive hitters retired to start the game. Aaron Faragallah broke up the no-hit bid with a single, but Barkley shook off a pair of baserunners and made it five shutout innings to start the day.
Kiichi Sato led off the bottom of the sixth with a solo home run, before Anderson added a two-run blast and the Mountain Lions got back into the game with a four-run frame.
Things unraveled for the ‘Jackets in the bottom of the seventh, as UCCS scored five times to take its first lead of the day. Three different Mountain Lions had RBI hits in the inning, and the hosts also benefitted from a passed ball and a wild pitch to take command.
Will Riley came through with a clutch, two-out, two-run double in the top of the eighth, as the Yellowjackets wrestled the lead back momentarily. But a solo home run from Sato and a two-run shot off the bat of Matt McDermott in the bottom of the inning put UCCS ahead for good 12-10.
Barkley wound up allowing four runs on six hits with five strikeouts and no walks through his six innings of work. Logan Siblerud, Sterling Lay, and Braelen Pippen combined to finish the outing for MSUB out of the bullpen. “Barkley threw outstanding today, and that was a really strong start from him,” Waddoups said on the left-hander. “He controlled the tempo and pace of the game, and I was excited to see that our rotation is starting to round itself out a little bit.”
UCCS starter Jonathan Cowles gave up seven runs on six hits with three strikeouts and a pair of walks, while lasting 4 1/3 innings. Matt Geoffrion and Dylan Morace combined to finish the game for UCCS on the mound.
Game 2 – UC Colorado Springs 11, MSU Billings 5 (6 Innings)
Momentum swung back-and-forth in the finale, with each team scoring twice in the first inning and the Mountain Lions holding a narrow 4-3 advantage moving to the fourth inning of play. Cipriano’s second homer of the day was a two-run shot to left-center in the first, and Chris Arpan added a solo shot in the second to help MSUB get on the board early.
Anderson countered with a two-run homer in the bottom of the first, before Evan Richards gave UCCS the lead with a two-run homer in the second.
Riley drove in a run and scored in the fourth, which helped MSUB temporarily pull back ahead 5-4 in the middle innings. It proved to be the final run of the game however, as UCCS scored seven times over the next two innings to walk away with the victory.
Aaron Faragallah hit a solo home run in the fourth, and Sato had RBI-hits in both the fourth and fifth to highlight UCCS’s late offensive push. Jaeden Hegmann finished 3-for-3 with three runs scored, while Richards and Sato each led the Mountain Lions with three runs batted in.
MSUB starter Dylan Johnson allowed four runs on four hits with four strikeouts and no walks in his two innings of work. Brooks Zimmer and Cort Dietrich finished the game on the mound for MSUB.
Jeremy Onken, who took over for starter Christian Manmano after the first inning, earned the win by allowing two runs on two hits with four strikeouts and a walk in three innings of relief for the hosts.
THE BUZZ: Cipriano was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…Arpan’s home run was the 17th of his career, moving him into a tie for No. 8 on the MSUB all-time list with Kaleo Johnson.
NEXT WEEK: MSUB kicks off Great Northwest Athletic Conference play with a four-game series at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho. Doubleheaders are scheduled for March 12 and March 13 at Vail Field, with live video available online here [vimeo.com] and live statistics available online here [nnusports.com].