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MSU Billings picks up first-ever win over D1 opponent

Posted at 6:47 PM, Feb 25, 2018

(MSU Billings release)

GREELEY, Colo. -Steen Fredrickson struck out a career-high 10 batters in Game 2, as the Montana State University Billings baseball team roared back to defeat the University of Northern Colorado 9-5 and split a doubleheader Sunday at Jackson Field.

The victory was the first in program history against an NCAA Division I opponent, and came after a 6-1 loss for the ‘Jackets in the opener on Sunday. “This is a big win for our program, and our pitchers did an outstanding job overall today,” said MSUB head coach Aaron Sutton. “We are excited for an opportunity to go out and win another preseason series tomorrow.”

Fredrickson improved his record to 2-0 on the year, and his 10 strikeouts were the most by any pitcher in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference through the first three weeks of the 2018 season. Sophomore Sam Muskat pitched the final four innings in relief, and added a career-best seven strikeouts as the Oregon duo tied the MSUB school record for combined strikeouts in a game with 17.

Kade Hall hit his second home run of the season in Game 1, and Ryan Myers and Hayden Humphrey each drove in three runs in the nightcap to lead MSUB at the plate. The Yellowjackets pushed their 2018 record to 5-4 with one non-conference game left to play.

Dean Lawson went 3-for-6 with three runs and three RBIs on the day for UNC, which moved to 3-3 overall on the year with the split.

Game 1 – Northern Colorado 5, MSU Billings 1 (7 Innings)

The Bears capitalized on early opportunities, taking advantage of spotty MSUB defense early in the game. After an RBI-single by Evan Johnson in the bottom of the first, UNC distanced itself with a four-run second inning. The ‘Jackets had a chance to get out of trouble unscathed, but a two-out error with the bases loaded plated a pair of runs. Jack Pauley followed with a two-run triple, and the home team’s advantage quickly moved to 5-0.

Sam Wong suffered his first loss of the year, despite allowing just one earned run among the five that crossed the plate. Wong gave up four hits in three innings, before Tristan Shockley came on and gave up just one run over the final three frames of the game.

MSUB got one back in the top of the third on the second home run of the year by Hall, but that was the only noise the ‘Jackets made against UNC starter Keenan Lum over the first four innings.

The ‘Jackets knocked on the door in the top of the fifth inning, loading the bases with two outs. Lum locked in however, and got MSUB No. 3 hitter Jalen Garcia to pop up to end the inning. The senior lefty finished with seven strikeouts and two walks, surrendering just one run on four hits in five innings to claim the win. “Their Game 1 guy was tough, and he had three pitches going for him,” Sutton commented. “We had some opportunities, but just didn’t capitalize.”

Anthony Brady finished the game in similar fashion to Lum, striking out four and allowing just one baserunner on a walk in two stellar relief frames.

Game 2 – MSU Billings 7, Northern Colorado 1

The middle of the order got it done for the ‘Jackets, as 3-through-5 hitters Garcia, Myers, and Humphrey had all eight of the team’s RBIs. Myers promptly made the score 2-0 with a first-inning triple, and Humphrey plated the senior with an RBI-groundout.

Fredrickson used the early cushion as a momentum builder on the mound, retiring six of the first seven batters he faced through the first two innings. Myers and Humphrey again combined to reward their starter with two more runs in the top of the third, after Conner Linebarger walked and Garcia followed with a double to start the frame. “We have had a bit of a monkey on our back with giving up early leads, but we just talked about attacking each pitch and we made an adjustment today,” said Sutton eluding to a 7-0 first-inning advantage last week at the College of Idaho that evaporated into a 12-11 loss. “Steen did a great job of that, and Sam picked up on that and moved from pitch-to-pitch with intensity.”

UNC starter Aaron Hamilton labored through four innings, giving up six runs on four hits with three strikeouts and four walks. Brett Minnick led off the bottom of the fourth with a solo home run to get the Bears on the board, but Fredrickson shook it off and retired the next six batters he faced to finish his outing.

An RBI-double by Garcia and a sacrifice fly by Humphrey upped the spread to 7-1 after the fifth inning, as the Yellowjacket offense continued to add on effectively. Muskat made the transition on the mound a smooth one, as he picked up right where Fredrickson left off starting in the bottom of the sixth. The sophomore lefty surrendered a run on an RBI-double by Lawson in the seventh, but set down the next four hitters he faced to get the ‘Jackets within three outs of the win.

Garcia engineered MSUB’s final rally of the day in the top of the ninth, tripling Myers in from first before dashing home on an error to complete the 360-foot journey on the trot.

UNC didn’t go down quietly, as Alex Kiel, Lawson, and Austin Miller strung together consecutive two-out, run-scoring hits to pull their team within four runs. Muskat dug deep, and tied the school record with the 17th strikeout of the day as he ended the game with a three-pitch punch-out.

THE BUZZ: Fredrickson was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…the junior posted the 26th 10-strikeout game in MSUB history, dating back to the 2006 season…his previous career high in strikeouts was seven, achieved on April 23, 2017 against Saint Martin’s…Muskat’s previous career-best in strikeouts was four, which he reached on April 7, 2017 at Northwest Nazarene…Sunday was MSUB’s first-ever win over UNC, as the Yellowjackets entered the day 0-10 all-time against the D1 foe…MSUB’s last 10-strikeout game was authored by Cody Cooper on April 28, 2017 against Concordia University…MSUB set the school record for strikeouts in a single game on May 1, 2016 with 17 at Western Oregon University…Cooper had 11 strikeouts, Bryon Baker (’17) had two, and Adam Cox had four to establish the school record two springs ago.

NEXT UP: The wrap-around series concludes on Monday, with the rubber match between the teams scheduled for a noon first pitch.