(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)
BURNABY, B.C. – Bolstered by home runs from Brittanee Fisher and Marin Penney, the Montana State University Billings softball team split a pair of games with Simon Fraser on the first day of the Yellowjackets’ final Great Northwest Athletic Conference series on Saturday.
The Yellowjackets (12-33, 5-17 GNAC) got their lone run of the 4-1 game one loss to Simon Fraser (16-18, 7-11 GNAC) of Fisher’s 40th home run, which tied Cameron Cassinelli’s MSUB career home run record. But two home runs from Penney, a complete game win from junior right-handed pitcher Alyssa Etheridge and improved defensive play helped MSUB win game two 4-2. With the win, MSUB not only snapped a nine-game losing skid, but also a five-game losing streak against Simon Fraser dating back to the 2020 season.
“Our team continued to hit the ball hard in game two, but the biggest difference was we made adjustments early in the game,” MSUB head softball coach Lisa McKinney said. “We also continued to play good defense and Alyssa Etheridge threw a great game in game two. We look to take this momentum into the series finale tomorrow.”
In anticipation for rainstorms tomorrow evening, the start time for game one of Sunday’s doubleheader has been moved up to 11 a.m. PT. Game two will start at around 1 p.m. PT.
Game 1: Simon Fraser 4, MSUB 1
Both teams cruised through the first half of game one with efficient pitching, solid fielding and – in the case of MSUB – resolve from starting pitcher Jenna Kister, who stranded four baserunners through the first three innings.
SFU applied some pressure by loading the bases in the bottom of the second, yet a routine pop-up to shortstop Lauren Blaschak, Kister’s second strikeout and a fly-out to center fielder Skyler Jenkins kept the game scoreless. The ‘Jackets got their first 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the third inning, yet MSUB’s offense didn’t get its first baserunner until Payton Meyer hit a single to left-center field in the top of the fourth.
The home team finally broke through in the next half-inning, as it quickly put two runners into scoring position with nobody out. Three-straight RBI singles from Alex Ogg, Megan Duclos and Georgia Ogg put MSUB in a 3-0 hole before pop-ups to Blaschak and second baseman Morgan Quimby ended the inning.
Trailing 3-0 heading into the fifth inning, the Yellowjackets got on the board with a significant swing from Fisher. The fifth-year senior hit a towering home run to right-center field, which not only was her 40th career home run, but also tied Cameron Cassinelli’s MSUB career home record.
“The dugout went wild when we knew it was over the fence,” McKinney said. “Off the bat we all knew it had a chance, but it has been hard to read here in Canada. When she got to the dugout, Coach [Taylor] Olsen and I gave her a big hug. She was going to be a part of our history no matter what, but now she shares an important record with one of her friends and teammates.”
The Yellowjackets kept the line moving with Morgan Quimby’s single, but on the next at-bat, Blaschak was tagged out at second base as she tried to take advantage of an error by SFU third baseman Alex Ogg. Quimby would be the last MSUB baserunner until the seventh inning.
Simon Fraser would take the run back in the bottom of fifth inning with a solo home run from Hannah Boulanger, ending Kister’s day and bringing up Alyssa Etheridge in relief. With help from the defense, Etheridge retired the next three batters to keep the score 4-1 heading into the sixth.
Needing three runs to keep the game going, Fisher’s one-out grounder to left field sparked a comeback attempt. Marin Penney reached base on the next at-bat, then Sidney Pollard drew a five-pitch walk to load the bases. Yet SFU retired the next two batters to win game one, 4-1.
Kister (2-9) was credited with the loss after recording three strikeouts and a walk in 4.0 innings of work. SFU starting pitcher Anissa Zacharczuk (10-9) would pitch a complete-game win, giving up only one earned run on four hits while striking out three batters and walking two.
Game 2: MSUB 4, SFU 2
The Yellowjackets wasted little time getting its offense going in game two against Simon Fraser. MSUB got ahead 1-0 in the second inning thanks to Marin Penney’s solo home run.
However, SFU would tie the game in the third inning with a leadoff bunt from Alex Ogg, then a one-out, RBI double to the right-center field fence from Chelsea Hotner that scored Ogg. After a one-out walk put two runners aboard and brought Janique Balcaen up to bat, the ‘Jackets were in danger of putting up another crooked number.
But Blaschak came through with a critical defensive play. Balcaen’s line drive bounced off Blaschak’s glove, but the freshman shortstop gathered the ball in stride and made the tag at second base before flipping the ball to Fisher at first to turn an inning-ending double play. All told, the freshman had a solid defensive outing while starting at shortstop in both games.
“Lauren came up with a huge play that bounced off Marin’s glove, threw it across the diamond to still get the out and hold the runner at third,” McKinney said. “Lauren also turned her own double play to end the third inning for us.”
Like she did in the previous game, Payton Meyer singled in the top of the fourth to get things going for MSUB. This time, however, the ‘Jacket offense would capitalize. SFU’s third baseman misplayed Maycen O’Neal’s chopper down the left field line, bringing up Fisher with two runners on and nobody out. Her sacrifice fly to right field advanced Meyer to third, bringing up Penney for the second time that game.
Despite falling behind 0-2 in the count, Penney hit the third pitch of her at-bat over the center field fence for a three-run home run. Penney has hit five home runs this season and 15 in her career, the latter of which is tied with Taylor Hoke for 21st all-time in MSUB history.
“Marin was making some good adjustments in game one, but she really put it all together in game two,” McKinney said. “She went in with a game plan and executed.”
Penney’s second homer chased Hollingworth from the game, who was replaced by freshman right-handed pitcher Julia Hansen who, to her credit, struck out four batters and allowed zero runs in the final 3.2 innings.
Playing with a 4-1 lead, the Yellowjackets put the clamps on SFU with a 1-2-3 fourth inning, capped off by Etheridge corralling in a bunt on the first base side, then whipping the ball to Fisher in time for the out at first. MSUB would corner Hansen off singles from Skyler Jenkins and Meyer, a fielder’s choice and a sacrifice fly, but the score remained 4-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth.
In the fifth inning, SFU took advantage of an error in MSUB’s infield and made the score 4-2 on a sacrifice fly from Alex Ogg. Yet Etheridge and the defense would put the clamps down on SFU from that point forward. The rest of the game was relatively smooth sailing for the Yellowjackets. SFU put two runners aboard with Caitlin Zagari’s two-out single with Georgia Ogg reaching on an error, but Etheridge snagged a line-drive up the middle to end the inning. Both teams would go down in order in the seventh inning to give MSUB a 4-2 win.
Etheridge (5-9) would earn the win by only giving up one earned run on six hits while recording one strikeout and two walks in a complete-game effort. Hollingworth (3-3) took the loss after giving up three earned runs on four hits, while striking out one batter in 3.1 innings of work.
UP NEXT: The start time for MSUB’s first game of Sunday’s doubleheader been moved up to 11 a.m. PT. Livestream and live stat links can be found on the softball team’s schedule page at msubsports.com.