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Heavy Hitter: Cipriano shattering MSU Billings home run mark

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Posted at 2:48 PM, Mar 23, 2021

BILLINGS -- Simply put, Daniel Cipriano mashes baseballs.

"I told him he's one of the most professional hitters I've ever seen," MSU Billings head baseball coach Derek Waddoups told MTN Sports.

And as the MSU Billings slugger continues lighting up -- and possibly denting -- scoreboards around the league, Waddoups somewhat marvels at the talent.

"He really gets it. He knows how to hunt pitches. He prepares himself physically, mentally, just kind of the whole deal," Waddoups said.

Fans can dive into Cipriano's numbers all day, but the short story is, he's MSUB's new all-time home run leader with no signs of slowing down. Additionally, his recent record-breaker was a grand slam for career home run number 28.

"He had tied it on Friday, then Saturday came up in the spot," Waddoups recalled with a smile, "... and half of our dugout was trying to call the shot. Everybody claims they were the first one."

Afterward, the Yellowjackets had to buy back the ball so they didn't break any NCAA violations. Cipriano now has it.

Just a week later, he jacked three more homers in a single game.

"I've always hit the ball pretty hard, but I figured out a lot about my swing path coming up here (to MSUB) and how to back spin the ball a little more, so that's helped me out for sure," Cipriano told MTN Sports.

"He isn't trying to lift it but has that natural power, natural loft in his swing," said Waddoups.

Cipriano's home run total at MSUB is 36 and counting. But those who might think he is ecstatic about shattering the old number may re-think it.

"It would be a lot easier to be happy about it if we were having a better season, but I think we can turn it around right here," said the designated hitter who also shares time at first base.

The Jackets started 0-12 but have won three of their last four.

As for Cipriano, he's a big guy -- looks like Popeye in a baseball uniform. And he sometimes pays for it at the plate.

"He gets hit by a lot of pitches, actually," Waddoups said. "Guys try to get in on him because he's a big dude, and he'll wear it and get on."

"Pitchers try to go inside against me, miss their spot a little bit and hit me," said Cip, as his teammates call him. "It's a big target in the (batter's) box."

Waddoups appreciates Cipriano's contagious personality.

"Our teammates celebrate him because of who he is. Even as much as the accomplishment and everything, they celebrate what type of person he his," Waddoups said.

According to Waddoups that "type" is also intense.

"You watch him when he's designated hitting, it makes me tired just watching him in the dugout with how much he moves around, and that positive energy is good for our whole club," said Waddoups.

Cipriano grew up a Dodgers fan outside of Los Angeles and played junior college ball near there. Now the senior is graduating with a biology degree but said he'd love a shot at pro ball after this final college season -- especially with the new independent Billings Mustangs.

"That would be great, man," he said, grinning. "Any more games I can play at Dehler (Park) would be awesome, of course."

Unless you're pitching to him.