(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – Brittanee Fisher delivered a walk-off home run with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning Tuesday evening at Avitus Group Stadium, giving the Montana State University Billings softball team a doubleheader sweep of visiting Carroll College.
Fisher blasted a 1-0 pitch deep over the fence in center field to break a 6-6 tie, as the Yellowjackets won 7-6 in the nightcap after an 8-5 victory in Game 1. “We know Brittanee has the power to do that, and luckily she just stayed through it,” said MSUB head coach Lisa McKinney on Fisher’s walk-off hit.
The 21st home run of Fisher’s career came after the Saints (1-5) stunned the Yellowjackets and scored six runs in the top of the seventh to overcome a 6-0 deficit and keep the game going. The senior’s heroics helped MSUB shake off its worst inning of the day and claim its first two wins of the season. “Brittanee is always a clutch hitter, I knew she could do it, and she believed in herself,” said Allie Hughes on her fellow senior’s game-winning hit. “It was a team win, but that was a really nice hit from her.”
Hughes homered in each game for the ‘Jackets (2-2), while Marin Penney went 3-for-6 with a double, a triple, and a home run in the doubleheader. “Allie really improved throughout the day,” McKinney said. “Her first couple at-bats she just missed, and she made the adjustment which was really nice to see from her.”
On a day where MSUB played error-free softball Penney was the top performer, playing a clean third base with one putout and five assists including a diving snag in foul territory and a bare-hand pickup and throw to first base on a bunt.
Julia Qualteri earned her first win of the year with five outstanding innings in the circle in Game 1, before Alyssa Etheridge had a career-high eight strikeouts in six stellar innings in the nightcap. “Lyss was doing really good today, and was really mixing her pitches well,” McKinney said. “Julia came out in the first game, and she set the pace for the team. She is really quiet and calm, and she keeps that presence on defense. Our team played really well behind her as well.”
Game 1 – MSU Billings 8, Carroll 5
Summoned to pinch hit in a 1-0 ballgame in the fifth inning, Skyler Jenkins delivered the first big hit of the day as she shot a two-run home run over the fence in right-center field. Her first homer of the year proved to be essential, as the Saints rallied to score twice in the top of the sixth on an RBI-double from Amber Brewer and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Haley Kampka.
MSUB took advantage of a costly error by the Saints in the bottom of the sixth, which opened the door for all five runs in the inning to score. Hughes’s two-run home run well over the fence in left-center was the decisive blow in the inning, as it upped MSUB’s lead to 8-2.
The Saints fought back in the top of the seventh, on an RBI-single by Sarah Jenkins and a two-run home run off the bat of Jessica Nimmo. MSUB reliever Haley Couch struck out Brewer to end the game however, earning the first save of her collegiate career.
The big offensive sixth inning helped back Qualteri’s effort, as she struck out two and walked just one while allowing two runs on five hits in five strong innings of work. “I was feeling super comfortable,” Qualteri said after the game. “One of the main focuses we have had over the last few weeks is getting ahead in the count and getting those first-pitch strikes. Once you get ahead it’s so much easier to mix in your other pitches, and that’s what we did.”
Hailee Gregerson was 2-for-2 in the opening game and drove in MSUB’s first run of the day with an RBI-single in the bottom of the second inning.
Carroll starter Abby Hanley was solid over her first five frames of work, before the game slipped away from her in the sixth inning. Overall she gave up eight runs – three earned – on six hits with nine strikeouts and three walks in six innings of work. Nimmo and Jenkins had three hits apiece to lead the Saints in Game 1.
Game 2 – MSU Billings 7, Carroll 6
With one out in the seventh inning, Nimmo hit a game-tying grand slam to left field that stunned MSUB as the Saints rallied for six runs in the final frame. Freshman pitcher Jenna Kister shook off the game-tying hit, and stranded two Saints on base as she managed to get MSUB back to the plate with the score tied.
After Hughes drilled a line drive to left field that was caught for the first out, Fisher sent a towering fly ball towards the scoreboard in center field to end the game.
The Yellowjackets slowly built their 6-0 lead throughout the game, with two runs in the first, two in the third, and two in the fifth. Leslie Jones played a part in each of the first two scoring innings for MSUB, with a one-out single in the first and a leadoff double in the third. Hughes’s second home run of the day brought home a pair in the first inning, before Penney delivered a homer to right-center that scored Jones and made the score 4-0 in the third.
Meanwhile, Etheridge was on her way to six shutout innings to start the game as she mixed her pitches well and kept the Saints off-balance. Her final line was four runs allowed on six hits with eight strikeouts and a pair of walks in six-plus innings pitched.
Jenkins took the loss in the circle for Carroll, allowing seven runs on 11 hits with five strikeouts and one walk in her 6 1/3 innings of work. She, Kaitlynn Ayers, and Kirsten Norris each had two hits to lead the Saints at the plate in Game 2.
Hughes and Penney combined to drive in five of MSUB’s eight runs in the nightcap, and that duo and Jones each had a pair of hits in the game.
THE BUZZ: Hughes was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…her two home runs gave her 12 in her MSUB career…Penney’s home run was the fourth of her MSUB career…Jenkins’ home run was the eighth of her career…Etheridge’s previous single-game high in strikeouts was seven, which she reached on Feb. 23, 2020 against University of Minnesota-Crookston.
NEXT UP: The two teams meet again on Wednesday afternoon with another doubleheader scheduled for 1 p.m. at Avitus Group Stadium. Live video will be available online here [youtube.com] and live statistics will be available online here [msubsports.com].