(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – Holding on for a pair of close victories on Sunday afternoon at Avitus Group Stadium, visiting Central Washington University took both ends of a Great Northwest Athletic Conference softball doubleheader over host Montana State University Billings.
The Wildcats (6-6, 2-0 GNAC) withstood four late runs scored by the ‘Jackets in Game 1 and won 6-5, before scoring twice in the top of the seventh inning in Game 2 to break a tie and win 7-5. MSUB slipped to 3-11 overall with the losses and started conference play with an 0-2 league record.
“The team played well today,” said MSUB head coach Lisa McKinney. “We were one swing away from winning each game, and the girls fought hard throughout the entire day. We hit the ball hard today, and more of those hard hits will start to find holes.”
Skyler Jenkins, Payton Reynolds, and Sidney Pollard each homered for the ‘Jackets in the opener, and Brie Frazier went 3-for-6 with hits in each game of the doubleheader to lead the offense.
Game 1 – Central Washington 6, MSU Billings 5
Jenkins led off the bottom of the seventh with her second home run of the year, bringing the Yellowjackets within a single run. CWU reliever Rhaney Harris retired the next three hitters she faced however, earning the save with 1 2/3 innings of relief.
Wildcat Starter Samantha Stanfield picked up the victory, allowing three runs on four hits with four strikeouts and five walks in 5 1/3 innings of work.
The Yellowjackets struck first in the game, when Pollard cleared the fence in left field in the second inning for her first-career home run. CWU responded immediately however, with four runs in the top of the third inning to take the lead. Allie Thiessen and Theresa Moyle had RBI-singles, and the big hit came from Alyssa Benthagen in the form of a two-out, two-run single to make the score 4-1.
Sasha Mitchell hit a solo home run in the fourth, and Alee Cruz had an RBI-single in the sixth to extend the Wildcats’ lead to five runs.
MSUB made a late push with a rally in the bottom of the sixth inning, with Reynolds delivering a two-run home run and Pollard punching an RBI-single into right field to get the ‘Jackets within two.
Freshman Jenna Kister logged a complete game in the circle, allowing six runs – three earned – on 10 hits with four strikeouts and no walks. The right-hander showed exceptional command throughout the day, and took a tough loss as half of the runs she allowed were the direct result of fielding miscues.
Game 2 – Central Washington 7, MSU Billings 5
Moyle led off the seventh inning with a double, and Myiah Seaton and Mitchell followed with RBIs as the Wildcats scored what proved to be the game-winning runs in the final inning of the day. MSUB put the go-ahead run at the plate after Pollard drew a two-out walk and Taylor Anderson followed with a single, but Ashlee Laver sealed the win by striking out the final batter.
Brittanee Fisher went 2-for-4 with three RBIs in the game, as she got the ‘Jackets on the board in the bottom of the first with a ground out and ripped a two-run double in the third. Reynolds followed Fisher’s double with a sacrifice fly, which pulled the Yellowjackets even at 4-4 midway through the game.
CWU scored one more in the fifth on a Moyle double, and the ‘Jackets took advantage of a fielding error in the sixth to tie the score again at 5-5.
Yellowjacket starter Haley Couch allowed four runs on three hits with one strikeout and three walks in her two innings of work. Alyssa Etheridge went the rest of the way, allowing three runs on five hits with two strikeouts and three walks in her five innings.
For the Wildcats, Isabel Womack started and gave up four runs on five hits with a pair of strikeouts and three walks in 2 1/3 innings. Lexie Strasser didn’t allow an earned run in her 3 1/3 innings of work, before handing the ball off to Laver who claimed the win.
THE BUZZ: Pollard was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…MSUB is now 25-47 all-time against CWU and is 13-19 in home games against the Wildcats…Jenkins’ home run was the ninth of her career…Reynolds’ home run was the 12th of her career.
NEXT UP: The series concludes on Monday with another doubleheader scheduled for 11 a.m. Live video will be available online here [youtube.com] and live statistics will be available online here [msubsports.com].