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Cooper Dulich GNAC Freshman of the Year for MSU Billings

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Posted at 10:06 AM, May 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-12 12:06:28-04

(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)

PORTLAND, Ore. – Cooper Dulich became the first player in Montana State University Billings baseball history to be named the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year, as he headlined eight all-conference selections for the Yellowjackets announced by the conference office.

The shortstop was among three unanimous first-team all-GNAC selections for MSUB, and was joined by his double play partner Tyler Godfrey and the GNAC home run leader Mitch Winter on the first team. MSUB had four second-team all-GNAC selections, including starting pitcher Matthew Houlihan, first baseman James Anderson, and outfielders Carson Green and Hayden Foltz. Senior starting pitcher Dylan Barkley rounded out the all-conference selections by earning honorable mention recognition.

The Yellowjackets (25-25) open the 2022 GNAC Championships on Thursday against Western Oregon at 10 a.m. Pacific and Northwest Nazarene at 1 p.m. Pacific. A full tournament preview can be found online here. []

Dulich leads the team in hitting at .346, while posting an OPS of .930 including reaching base at a clip of .459 in his debut collegiate season. Dulich’s 35 RBIs are second most on the team, and he has racked up 13 doubles while stealing seven bases in nine attempts. Dulich also ranks fifth in the league with 104 assists, and he has turned 17 double plays.

“Dulich has been impressive since Day 1 in this program,” said MSUB head coach Derek Waddoups. “He has an outstanding work ethic, is a pure leader, and is mature beyond his years. He has performed in the clutch and shown his ability to be an elite defender at the college level.”

With Dulich being the first ‘Jacket to claim the conference’s Freshman of the Year award, MSUB has now had a player win each of the GNAC’s four major awards.

Playing next to Dulich up the middle all season has been second baseman Tyler Godfrey, who earned a spot on the first team in his debut season with the Yellowjackets. Godfrey’s 22 double plays turned are second most among non-first basemen in the GNAC, while at the plate he is hitting .285 with 21 RBIs. Godfrey holds an .820 OPS, while hitting seven doubles and three home runs on the year.

Godfrey’s biggest moment came on April 8, when he had walk-off hits on both ends of MSUB’s doubleheader sweep of Western Oregon. In MSUB’s four-game series against Northwest Nazarene on March 25-26, he was involved in all 11 double plays the ‘Jackets turned which broke the GNAC record for a four-game series. “Godfrey really shined in the biggest moments with clutch RBIs throughout the year,” said Waddoups. “He has also shown his defensive ability as a steady infielder for us.”

Despite starting just 31 of 50 games this season and logging only 100 at-bats, Winter leads the GNAC with 10 home runs on the year. The designated hitter is slugging a team-best .610, adding four doubles and getting on base at a clip of .398 this spring. Winter is hitting .270 on the year, and perhaps his biggest home run came on April 21 as it proved to be the difference in MSUB’s 2-0 win over Saint Martin’s.

Winter was named the GNAC Player of the Week and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association West Region Player of the Week, after homering four times in MSUB’s series against the Saints. “Winter is just a good all-around dude,” Waddoups said. “He is a great teammate and servant leader. He has some juice in his bat and really came on strong late showing the ability to hit for power and to drive in runs.”

One of the top starting pitchers for the Yellowjackets this spring, Houlihan earned his first all-conference nod after starting 13 games and ranking second in the GNAC with 69 strikeouts. The right-hander ate up 61 1/3 innings during the regular season, while holding a 5.72 ERA and tossing three complete games. His best performance was a one-hit shutout, in which he struck out a career-high 11 hitters while using Winter’s big home run to collect the victory.

“Houlihan had some of our most dominant outings of the season,” Waddoups said. “His ability to complete games and pitch his best in the late innings really set him apart. He has been fantastic for us all season.”

MSUB’s candidate for newcomer of the year, Anderson has been an integral part of the lineup in the No. 3 spot all season long. The first-year ‘Jacket is hitting .287 with 13 doubles, eight home runs, and 34 RBIs. He holds a stellar .988 OPS, including an on-base percentage of .455 thanks in large part to a GNAC-high 38 walks drawn which is two away from the MSUB single-season record. Anderson has also stolen six bases and has made just four errors in 302 chances for a fielding percentage of .987 at first base.

“James has provided some pop for us offensively, but what really sets him apart is his ability to get on base and a quality hitting approach,” said Waddoups. “He has been able to pick it at first base and play solid defense to help our entire infield perform. He is one of our hardest workers on and off the field, and our team respects him for how he goes about his business on a daily basis.”

Each earning all-conference recognition for the second straight season, Green and Foltz have been the Yellowjackets’ anchors in center field and right field, respectively, and in the top two spots in the batting order.

Green, who was a second-team pick in 2021, ranks second on the team with a .316 batting average while hitting nine doubles, four triples, and seven home runs. The leadoff hitter is also fourth on the team with 32 RBIs, while slugging .534 and reaching base at a clip of .425. Green’s nine stolen bases lead the team and are fourth most in the GNAC, while his 47 runs scored lead the team and rank him second in the GNAC.

“Carson is becoming an elite defensive centerfielder, and the amount of ground he covers is quite astounding,” said Waddoups. “Being in the leadoff spot the entire season, he has been a catalyst for our offense. He is our best base stealer, and has been able to provide some power as well.”

Foltz meanwhile leads the team with 43 RBIs, while hitting .307 with a team-high 16 doubles, three triples, and three home runs. Foltz has started 41 games in right field, while hitting second in the lineup between Green and Anderson. The junior holds an .853 OPS, and has stolen three bases on the season while scoring 36 times. “Hayden is one of the best servant leaders I have ever been around,” said Waddoups. “He is a very intellectual hitter and has shown the ability to hit every style of pitcher. He is just an all-around great hitter who can beat you with the bunt game, line drives, and the power game.”

Wrapping up his fifth and final season in a Yellowjacket uniform, Barkley is tied with Houlihan for the most starts in the GNAC with 13 this spring. The left-hander’s 65 strikeouts are third-most in the conference, and his 192 career strikeouts rank him fourth in MSUB history. Barkley holds a 5.35 ERA, and his 72 1/3 innings pitched are the most in the league as well. “Dylan has been an outstanding leader in our program,” Waddoups said. “He has been our Game 1 guy all season and has shown the ability to dominate lineups winning several GNAC Pitcher of the Week awards. It has been a joy to coach Dylan and watch him mentor the younger pitchers on our staff.”

Adam Fahsel of Central Washington was named the GNAC Player of the Year, while Western Oregon’s Arturo Alvarez was named both the GNAC Pitcher of the Year and the GNAC Newcomer of the Year. WOU head coach Kellen Walker was selected by his peers as the GNAC Coach of the Year.