(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)
DENVER – Competing for the first time in more than 11 months on Saturday afternoon, the Montana State University Billings softball team dropped a pair of games in a doubleheader against host Regis University at the Regis Softball Field.
The Rangers picked up a 7-2 victory in Game 1, before roaring back from an early deficit to claim the second game 14-5 on a walk-off three-run home run by Madison Flores. “It was good to have the whole team together and back out on the field,” said Yellowjacket head coach Lisa McKinney. “I think we learned a lot today about what we need to improve upon, and that we need to get back into that competitive mentality.”
Leslie Jones hit her first home run as a Yellowjacket in her first at-bat of the season, and Taylor Anderson led the Yellowjackets with three RBIs in the second game on Saturday. “Leslie and Taylor had a really good day at the plate in Game 2,” McKinney said. “We came out with really good energy and aggressively at the plate in the second game. We just needed to keep that momentum going throughout the game.”
Game 1 – Regis 7, MSU Billings 2
The Rangers struck quickly with a three-run bottom of the first inning, highlighted by RBIs from Laura Scheffel and Taylor Armitage and a pair of stolen bases by the latter.
Yellowjacket starter Julia Qualteri settled into a groove after the first frame, retiring eight consecutive batters into the fourth inning. By then MSUB got onto the board, when Sydney Norwood roped a two-run triple into the gap in right center field to bring home Marin Penney and pinch runner Jenna Kister.
Ashlynn Balliet delivered her first collegiate home run in the bottom of the fourth to give Regis a 4-2 lead, and the Rangers put the game out of reach with two more runs in the fifth and a Jillian Bartley solo home run in the sixth.
Armitage did well to limit MSUB’s opportunities late in the game, as she allowed only one baserunner – an Allie Hughes single in the seventh – over her final three frames of work after Norwood’s big hit.
Scheffel was the lone player in the game with multiple hits, and she and Balliet finished with a pair of RBIs each. Armitage earned the victory by scattering just five MSUB hits over her seven innings of work, while striking out a pair and walking none.
Qualteri allowed six runs on five hits with one strikeout and a pair of walks in four innings of work. Junior Haley Couch finished the game pitching for MSUB, giving up one run on four hits with a walk and a strikeout in her two innings.
Game 2 – Regis 14, MSU Billings 5 (6 Innings)
The Rangers scored all of their runs over the final four innings, capping the doubleheader sweep with Flores’ three-run shot with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. Jade Loe had three of her game-high four RBIs on a home run during the team’s three-run fifth inning, as Regis rallied late for the run-rule victory.
Jones’ home run kick-started a first-inning rally for the ‘Jackets, and a pair of hit batters and an error to MSUB’s next three hitters loaded the bases for Anderson. The senior punched a two-run single through the right side, helping the Yellowjackets to a 3-0 lead after the top of the first inning.
Anderson helped keep the Rangers quiet in the bottom of the first, negating a leadoff single by Victoria McMains as the MSUB catcher gunned her down trying to steal second base with a strong throw to Jones at the bag. Etheridge kept the Rangers’ bats quiet in the second inning as well, and Anderson came through again in the third with an RBI-single to bring home Brittanee Fisher.
The Rangers used a pair of sacrifice bunts and an error by the ‘Jackets to bring across three runs in the bottom of the third, pulling within a run down 4-3. Regis starter Megan Loveland retired the ‘Jackets in order in the top of the fourth, setting up what proved to be the decisive inning in the game.
Regis’s four-run fourth inning materialized with two outs on the board, as Loe drew a walk before Katherine Raper and Logan Taylor came through with back-to-back doubles. Shayelyn Allen added an RBI-single, and Regis took the lead for good up 7-4.
Trailing 10-4 in the top of the sixth, MSUB managed one more chance to get back into the game. A two-out walk and an ensuing single by Payton Reynolds loaded the bases for Jones, who ripped a single into center field for her second RBI of the game. Loe gunned down MSUB’s trail runner at the plate however, stopping the rally after a single run and keeping the advantage well in the hands of the hosts.
Regis scored its 14 runs on 14 hits, while showing discipline at the plate drawing eight walks and striking out zero times. MSUB meanwhile managed five runs on six hits, while leaving four runners on base in the game. Alyssa Etheridge gave up three runs on five hits in 2 1/3 inning sin her season debut, while Kister made her collegiate pitching debut in the game as well.
THE BUZZ: Anderson was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…the triple was the first of Norwood’s career…Brie Frazier had her first collegiate hit in her first at-bat, with a double to lead off the first game…Anderson matched her MSUB single-game high with three RBIs, which she achieved on March 19, 2020 with a three-run triple at Simon Fraser…Saturday marked the first-ever meeting between the Yellowjackets and Rangers.
NEXT UP: MSUB makes its 2021 home debut on March 2-3 with four home games against Carroll College. Doubleheaders are scheduled to start at 1 p.m. each day at Avitus Group Stadium,