(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – Five home runs and a solid all-around pitching performance lifted the Montana State University Billings baseball team to a doubleheader sweep of Saint Martin’s University on Sunday at Pirtz Field.
The offense came alive in an 11-4 Game 1 win to back a solid outing by Dylan Barkley, and Logan Siblerud earned his first collegiate win on the mound as the Yellowjackets took the series finale 9-6. “The guys really played well today, and they’re starting to relax and play the game,” said MSUB head coach Derek Waddoups. “It’s good to be home, and our pitching staff was outstanding today. Offensively, different guys are stepping up at different times and it is exciting.”
Carson Green hit a three-run home run in the opener, and four different players homered in the nightcap to lead the offense. Daniel Cipriano hit his fourth home run of the weekend, his 11th of the year, and the 36th of his career, while Sam Powers, Chris Arpan, and Justin Lutz each went yard in Game 2. Lutz finished the day 3-for-6 with five RBIs and played solid defense both in left field and behind the plate. “It was cool seeing everyone step up today,” said Arpan. “It was really just a full team effort today.”
The Yellowjackets improved to 3-13 with the victories and are now 3-5 in conference play. Saint Martin’s meanwhile slipped to 4-6 overall and opened its conference season with a 1-3 league record. “The energy was great, and the guys see that we never give up,” Waddoups said, referring to Friday’s narrow 7-6 defeat against the Saints. “Guys walking into the park today were talking about that, which is awesome because we know as long as we keep it close that with our offense we are going to have a chance.”
Game 1 – MSU Billings 11, Saint Martin’s 4
MSUB did its scoring in bunches, with a four-run bottom of the first and a seven-run bottom of the sixth to pull away from SMU. Barkley started the day with a clean top of the first inning, and shortstop Tanner Parker had a pair of solid defensive plays behind the lefty.
Lutz drove in MSUB’s first two runs of the day, roping an opposite-field double off the wall in left field. Andrew Schleusner plated another with a ground out, and Parker made it a 4-0 ballgame with a sharp double to right field.
Reid Little hit his first home run of the year in the top of the second, getting the Saints on the board.
SMU starter Troy McCormick got out of a major jam in the bottom of the fourth inning, as the Yellowjackets loaded the bases with only one out. The right-hander struck out Cipriano and got Tanner Cantwell to pop up, stranding the bases full and keeping the score at 4-1.
The Saints evened things up in the top of the fifth inning, taking advantage of a balk call and a defensive miscue to push three runs across.
Inheriting a pair of runners on base with one out in the top of the sixth, reliever Tyler Elliott emphatically struck out the next two batters to keep the score tied at 4-4.
The ‘Jackets broke the game open with a seven-run sixth inning, which Green kicked off with a three-run home run over the fence in center. Powers capped the rally with a two-run single, and it proved to be plenty of offense to close the game out over the final three innings.
Barkley finished with a line of four runs allowed on four hits, with seven strikeouts and four walks in his 5 1/3 innings of work. Elliott was perfect in his 1 2/3 innings of relief to earn the win, and Braelen Pippin threw two shutout frames with four strikeouts to finish the game for the ‘Jackets.
McCormick gave up four runs on five hits with three strikeouts and five walks in his five effective innings of work. Jacob Woodall allowed seven runs in three innings of relief, striking out three and walking a pair.
Game 2 – MSU Billings 9, Saint Martin’s 6 (7 Innings)
Arpan and Parker started the second game off with back-to-back stellar defensive plays. Arpan charged in on a bunt, made a bare-handed pickup, and threw out SMU leadoff hitter Ryne Oshiro. Parker followed with a back-hand snag and a deep throw from the hole in short to just get Ty Matsunami on the next play.
Aaron Renaud’s fourth home run of the year gave the Saints a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but it was the only run the Saints scored in the first four innings of the game.
MSUB meanwhile struck with another big inning, plating five in the bottom of the third to pull ahead 6-1. After a Lutz solo homer in the second, Powers and Cipriano each had a solo blast to start the third. Arpan followed by ripping a powerful line drive the other way over the fence in right-center for a two-run shot. “They were working me away in my first at-bat,” Arpan commented on his approach in his home-run at-bat. “I just tried living that way, staying inside the baseball, and good things happen.”
The Saints continued to fight, scoring two runs in the fifth and adding another on Little’s second home run of the day in the sixth. The Yellowjackets bolstered their advantage in the bottom of the sixth, on an RBI-single from Cipriano and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Lutz.
Siblerud was sharp in his 4 2/3 innings of work, allowing three runs on three hits with six strikeouts and three walks. “I just tried to keep the ball in the bottom of the zone and limit the walks,” Siblerud said. “It’s always fun being at home and taking the series, and it’s going to be good going into next weekend.”
Dylan Johnson allowed one run on two hits in his 1 1/3 innings of relief, and Elliott came back on to strike out a pair in the seventh to end the game. “We had Elliott come on twice, and that was big for us,” Arpan said. “He really ate innings for us and threw a lot of strikes in the bottom of the zone.”
Oshiro and Cody Chavis each homered in the top of the seventh to pull SMU within three, but the Saints couldn’t put together a comeback rally.
“I felt good, the defense played good behind me, and we hit the ball well,” said Siblerud. “You gotta love when your defense has your back, and it’s super fun to watch. Our offense is awesome and the run support we get is incredible.”
THE BUZZ: Lutz was selected as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…MSUB is now 53-48-1 all-time against SMU and is 24-26 in home games.
NEXT UP: The ‘Jackets are on the road the next two weeks, starting with a four-game series at Western Oregon University next weekend. Doubleheaders are set for March 26 and 27, with live coverage available online here. [msubsports.com]
“Any time you can take care of your house it is good, and hopefully we can keep that momentum going on the road,” Waddoups said. “In conference play every series matters, so we just have to keep doing our thing on the road.”