(MSU Billings release)
ST. GEORGE, Utah – Twenty-seven runs scored on 26 hits propelled the Montana State University Billings baseball team to its first wins of the 2018 season Friday at Bruce Hurst Field, as the Yellowjackets defeated Cal State University San Bernardino 12-5 in the opening game of a doubleheader before topping No. 15 Dixie State University 15-7 in the nightcap under the lights.
Steen Fredrickson earned the win in Game 1, with a career high seven innings pitched in the first start of his junior season. Sophomore catcher Andrew Schleusner had a career game at the plate in Game 2, going 4-for-5 with six RBIs including a three-run home run. Michael Gahan earned his first win as a Yellowjacket in the victory over Dixie State, and senior Adam Cox logged his first save of the year and the 10th of his MSUB career.
The Yellowjackets improved to 2-1 after a tough, 12-11 loss to Dixie State on Friday night in the season opener. “Last night left a bad taste in our guys’ mouths, but today was a new day and overall I was really impressed with our guys,” said MSUB head coach Aaron Sutton. “Steen was huge for us, as we burned a lot of arms last night and we needed a guy to come out and throw well for us. He pitched with tempo, with three pitches, and he really competed. To see Steen’s growth over the last year has been tremendous, and I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Ryan Myers finished the day 1-for-5, but he drew four walks and was hit by a pitch to reach base in 6 of 11 plate appearances in the doubleheader. The 2017 Great Northwest Athletic Conference leader in on-base percentage at .474, Myers has reached base in 10 of 15 plate appearances this season (.667 OBP).
After using five pitchers in Thursday night’s loss to Dixie State, MSUB utilized just five total arms in its two games on Friday in an improved all-around effort on the mound. The ‘Jacket staff had 14 strikeouts on Friday, while giving up just 11 total earned runs on the doubleheader.
Game 1 – MSUB 12, CSU San Bernardino 5
Fredrickson gave up just one run on four hits in his seven innings, while striking out four and walking two in seven innings. The right-hander from Ashland, Ore., was highly efficient, needing just 80 pitches to get through his outing. Dakota Weindel made his MSUB debut in relief of Fredrickson, and finished the day with four runs allowed on two hits over the final two innings of the game. “Our hitters did a phenomenal job, and they have done a phenomenal job over the first three games total,” Fredrickson commented. “They put good swings on the ball all day, and it was good to get two wins today.”
The ‘Jackets struck right away with a run in the top of the first, but were held scoreless over the next four frames by CSUSB starter Matthew Moriarty. Ty Lineberger evened the score with an RBI-single in the bottom of the fifth, before the ‘Jackets rallied for 11 runs over the final four frames to claim the victory.
MSUB scored four of its five sixth-inning runs on free passes, with three walks and a hit batter. Garcia plated the final run with a sacrifice fly, and Kade Hall followed suit with a sac fly in the seventh to make the score 7-1.
The Coyotes (0-1) made a push to get back into the game despite trailing 9-1, with a four-run eighth inning. Gabe Chavez produced an RBI-single to center, and Mando Rodriguez followed with a three-run home run to left that cut the deficit to four runs.
MSUB provided Weindel with insurance in the top of the ninth however, as Conner Linebarger drove in a run with a base hit and Chazz Ishikawa had his first RBI as a Yellowjacket with a single through the right side.
Despite its high offensive output, MSUB still left 11 runners on base in its first game of the day. CSUSB stranded six runners, and committed four errors that resulted in two unearned runs. The ‘Jackets by contrast played error-free defense in the opening game.
Rodriguez was the only CSUSB player with multiple hits in the game, while Chase Teter finished 2-for-3 and Caje Golden went 2-for-5 for MSUB.
Game 2 – MSUB 15, No. 15 Dixie State 7
Schluesner roped a 2-2 pitch into left field with two outs in the top of the eighth, growing MSUB’s lead from 8-7 to 10-7 and providing Cox with plenty of breathing room before he took the mound in the bottom of the frame. From there the ‘Jackets tacked on five more runs in the top of the ninth to put the game out of reach and pick up their third win over a ranked opponent in the last two years. “We were really hungry after last night’s loss, and we just wanted to come out and get two wins today,” Schleusner said. “Caje gave me a tip in the dugout that I might get a curveball right there (in the eighth), and I just waited on it and made the best swing on it that I could.”
Cox was stellar in his first pitching performance of the year, matching a career high with five strikeouts among the six batters he retired. Sam Wong made his MSUB debut in the start on the mound, logging 4 1/3 innings with five runs allowed on six hits. Gahan bridged the gap with 2 2/3 innings of relief, protecting the lead and earning the win before passing the ball along to Cox. “That was a really good performance from Cox,” said Schleusner after calling pitches for the senior behind the plate over the final two frames. “I couldn’t ask for a better guy to catch, and it was just a great performance all-around.”
The ‘Jackets never trailed in their second game of the day, scoring two runs in the second on a two-run double into the gap by Golden.
Jalen Garcia hit his second home run of the year in the third, and Schleusner followed with the second of his career as both Yellowjackets took Dixie State starter Nick Bonniksen deep to left field. All six runs scored by the ‘Jackets in the third came with no outs, and by the end of the frame Bonniksen’s day was over with eight runs allowed on seven hits.
Jake Reed was impressive out of the bullpen for the Trailblazers, giving up just one hit in 3 2/3 shutout innings of relief. DSU took advantage of his work and got back into the game, scoring seven unanswered runs from the third-through-seventh innings. Bryce Feist was the top producer at the plate for DSU, launching a two-run homer to left in the fifth and adding an RBI-single in the sixth.
Feist was one of five DSU batters to finish with a pair of hits, and Alec Flemetakis had a good day at 2-for-2 with three runs scored including his first-career home run.
After Schleusner’s key insurance delivery, Cox was nearly spotless with just one baserunner – a walk – allowed in his two innings of work.
MSUB left 10 runners on base while Dixie stranded eight in the game, and the ‘Jackets had four errors while Dixie committed none.
THE BUZZ: Fredrickson (Game 1) and Schleusner (Game 2) were picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Players of the Day…the four hits and six RBIs were each single-game career bests for Schleusner…Fredrickson’s previous career high in innings pitched was 5.0 against Saint Martin’s on April 23, 2017…the save was the 10th of Cox’s career, as he continues to build the MSUB school record in that category…Cox previously had five strikeouts on April 3, 2016 at Saint Martin’s…senior Landon Peterson returned to the lineup on Friday, for the first time since suffering a season-ending injury eight games into the 2017 season…Friday’s game was the first-ever for MSUB against CSUSB…the ‘Jackets are now 4-22 all-time against DSU, with all games being played in St. George.
NEXT UP: MSUB will try to make it a winning road trip to start the season, with a final contest against Dixie State scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on Saturday morning.