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MSU Billings splits baseball DH; swept in softball

MSUB Baseball Pitch 21.png
Posted at 8:45 AM, Mar 29, 2021

(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)

MONMOUTH, Ore. – The bats came alive for the Montana State University Billings baseball team on Saturday, leading to a doubleheader split against Great Northwest Athletic Conference foe Western Oregon University at the WOU Baseball Field.

MSUB rolled to an 18-2 triumph in the opener, but the Wolves countered with a 7-1 victory in the nightcap to take the series 3-1. The ‘Jackets moved to 4-16 overall with the split and are now 4-8 in conference play. WOU meanwhile is 6-4 overall and is 5-3 in league play to start the season. “I’m excited because we are starting to pitch better and play better overall,” MSUB head coach Derek Waddoups said. “I like the momentum of the group and how they’re staying with each other. They continue to believe and continue to support each other.”

Dylan Barkley threw seven stellar innings in his start in the opener Saturday, while Tanner Parker and Carson Green each hit a home run on the day. Daniel Cipriano got on base in 5 of 9 plate appearances on the day and had a pair of RBIs. “Dylan Barkley was outstanding today,” Waddoups said. “He really controlled the tempo and pace of the game, and really pitched well. It was really good for us to get that momentum going and to see that type of outing. Game 2 just got away from us a little bit, and we just couldn’t get it going offensively. It’s a tough place to play, and they did a good job protecting their home turf.”

Connor McCord went 3-for-6 in the doubleheader with three RBIs, and the Wolves combined to throw a one-hitter in the nightcap.

Game 1 – MSU Billings 18, Western Oregon 2

Barkley delivered one of the best performances of his career, scattering five hits over seven innings of work and allowing just two unearned runs in the game. The left-hander threw a career-high 119 pitches, while striking out nine and walking two to earn his first win of the year.

Mason Abrath and Blake Tritch each threw an inning to finish the game, combining to strike out three, walk none, and surrender just one hit. “Abrath was lights out, and he came in and pounded the zone,” Waddoups said. “Same with Tritch. We were able to open up the offense, and Tanner Parker got energy on our side with the three-run home run in the second inning. It was just a really well-played game from our guys.”

MSUB’s offense did more than enough to back the stellar pitching in the opening game of the doubleheader, scoring three runs in the top of the second and never looking back. Parker’s two-run homer came in the second frame, before the team scored three more in the fourth to make the score 6-0.

The Wolves had an opportunity to get on the board with two on and only one out in the third, but Barkley received a boost from his catcher Justin Lutz who gunned down Derek Maiben to end the frame with a strike-out, throw-out double play.

Cipriano ripped an RBI-double into the left-field corner in the top of the sixth, extending MSUB’s lead to 7-0. The Wolves finally broke through with two runs in the bottom of the inning after an error, but it was all the offense the hosts could muster against Barkley.

Ending his outing in emphatic fashion, Barkley shook off a two-out double in the seventh and recorded strike outs for all three outs in his final frame of the day.

MSUB piled on the offense late, with a two-run double off the bat of Carson Green highlighting a four-run eighth inning. Twelve batters came up to hit in a seven-run top of the ninth inning to blow the game open at the end.

Will Riley went 4-for-5 with three runs scored out of the leadoff spot, while Sam Powers was 3-for-4 with four runs scored in the opening game of the doubleheader.

Game 2 – Western Oregon 7, MSU Billings 1 (7 Innings)

WOU starter Nick Parr shook off a first-inning home run allowed to Green, and struck out six while walking just one in five innings pitched. Ryan Shipley allowed one walk while striking out one in two shutout innings of relief, as the MSUB bats went quiet in the series finale.

The Wolves responded in the third inning, plating runs on a balk, an RBI-double from McCord, and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Justyn Herzog. Derek Maiben drew a walk to lead off the fifth inning, and an RBI-single off the bat of McCord made it a 4-1 ballgame. WOU capped the scoring two batters later, when Josh Berman launched a three-run home run that proved to be the final blow in the game.

MSUB starter Logan Siblerud allowed three runs on four hits with three strikeouts and three walks in his three innings of work. Braelen Pippin gave up four runs on three hits in two innings, before Tyler Elliott threw a perfect bottom of the sixth inning to finish the game on the mound.

Walks drawn by PJ Ausmus in the fifth and Green in the sixth gave MSUB its only two baserunners of the game other than Green’s first-inning home run.

THE BUZZ: Barkley was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…Barkley was one strikeout away from his career high of 10, which he achieved on Feb. 29, 2020 at Western Oregon…the Game 1 score tied MSUB’s largest-ever victory over Western Oregon…MSUB also beat the Wolves 18-2 in Game 1 of a doubleheader on April 15, 2017 in Billings…WOU now leads the series 80-30 and is 37-14 in games played in Monmouth.

NEXT WEEK: The Yellowjackets are on the road again, with a four-game GNAC series at Central Washington University on the calendar. Doubleheaders against the Wildcats are set for April 2 at noon and April 3 at 11 a.m. in Ellensburg, Washington, with live coverage available online here. [msubsports.com]

Meantime, sweeping Sunday’s doubleheader at Avitus Group Stadium, visiting Humboldt State University defeated the Montana State University Billings softball team twice in the softball series finale.

The Lumberjacks (3-1) held on for a 6-5 win in the opener before riding a stellar pitching outing from Karen Di Dio to a 9-2 triumph in Game 2. The Yellowjackets slipped to 5-15 on the season with Sunday’s losses. “We came out strong in Game 1, scoring early,” said MSUB head coach Lisa McKinney. “The pitchers did a good job of getting results, but we made too many errors again. In Game 2, it took us a while to get started. Our offense started making better contact in the fourth inning on, but it was just too late.”

Allie Hughes hit her team-leading sixth home run of the season, while Brittanee Fisher added her fifth and Hailee Gregerson hit her fourth to lead MSUB offensively. Izzy Starr homered in each game for HSU, while Micaela Harris and Vanessa Saltos each added their first home run of the season for the visitors. “We did have a lot of positives from the weekend with several double plays, some clutch home runs and doubles, and some great catches in the outfield,” McKinney said.

Game 1 – Humboldt State 6, MSU Billings 5

Starr’s first home run of the day was a two-run shot in the top of the sixth inning, that proved to be the game-winning swing of the bat. The Yellowjackets only managed one baserunner over the final two innings, as HSU starter Emily McAdams finished the game strong to earn the victory.

McAdams gave up five runs on five hits, with three strikeouts and a pair of walks in the complete-game effort. Katelyn Dendas went 3-for-4 and Danica Grier was 2-for-4 to lead the ‘Jacks offensively.

HSU struck first when JoAna Mullins laced an RBI-single into center field to make it a 1-0 ballgame in the top of the first inning. MSUB responded immediately however, as Gregerson delivered a two-run single before Fisher crushed a long, two-run home run down the left-field line to make it 4-1 in the bottom of the inning.

Grier drove in her first run with a base hit in the second, but that was all the scoring for either team over the next three innings of play.

MSUB starter Jenna Kister displayed her toughness in navigating out of bases-loaded situations in both the second and third innings. She also relied on her fellow freshman centerfielder Brie Frazier, who provided a key boost with standout defensive play throughout the game. With one out in the top of the fourth, Grier drilled a deep line drive that was headed towards the fence and appeared to be a double off the bat. Frazier took off on a dead sprint and made a leaping, over-the-shoulder catch at the last second to rob HSU’s leading hitter.

Frazier tracked down a deep fly ball off the bat of Grier at the fence to end the top of the fifth inning, as she helped Kister limit the damage in the frame to a pair of runs. “Brie had a stellar day in center for us,” McKinney said. “She tracked down a lot of balls that helped end some innings and take some momentum away. She also puts pressure on the defense by being able to beat out infield singles and drag bunt from the right side.”

The ‘Jacks took advantage of an error before Frazier’s catch in the fifth, scoring twice to pull the score even at 4-4. Gregerson came through again in the bottom of the fifth inning, hitting a solo home run to put the ‘Jackets temporarily ahead once again. Starr had the final say however, as HSU completed the comeback victory.

Kister surrendered three runs on nine hits with no strikeouts and one walk in her 4 1/3 innings pitched. Julia Qualteri finished the game for the ‘Jackets, giving up three runs on two hits with one strikeout and one walk over 2 2/3 innings of work.

Game 2 – Humboldt State 9, MSU Billings 2

Di Dio shut down the Yellowjackets for five innings, and picked up her second victory of the series. Hughes broke up the shutout with a two-run home run in the sixth inning, and simultaneously rescued the Yellowjackets from what would have been a run-rule defeat as she made the score 9-2.

Overall in the game Di Dio gave up two runs on two hits with two strikeouts and two walks, while throwing 108 pitches in the complete-game effort.

The ‘Jacks once again struck in the first, this time on a base hit by McAdams that scored Harris. HSU’s big inning came in the third, when the team scored five times to pull ahead 6-0. Harris led off the inning with a home run, and Saltos delivered a three-run blast to right-center to help blow the game open.

The Yellowjackets had a chance to get on the board in the fourth inning, as they loaded the bases with two outs. Di Dio stranded all three runners with a pop up however, as she wiggled out of MSUB’s best scoring chance of the game up to that point.

Starr hit a solo home run in the fifth, and McAdams had a two-out, two-run double into the left-field corner in the sixth that made the score 9-0.

Haley Couch started the game and allowed six runs on seven hits with two strikeouts and no walks in 2 2/3 innings of work. Alyssa Etheridge threw the final 4 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on four hits with one strikeout and no walks.

THE BUZZ: Frazier was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…Fisher’s home run was the 25th of her career, as she moved into a tie for sixth in program history with Stephanie Gosselin…Hughes’s home run was the 16th of her career…MSUB is now 5-22 all-time against HSU and is 1-3 in home games against the ‘Jacks.

NEXT WEEK: The Yellowjackets hit the road and return to Great Northwest Athletic Conference play with a four-game series at Western Washington University. Doubleheaders against the Vikings are set for April 2 and April 3 at noon, with live coverage available online here [msubsports.com].