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MSU Billings splits at Western Oregon Friday

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(MSUB Athletics release)

NEWBERG, Ore. – The Montana State University Billings baseball team had a short memory on Friday at Morse Athletic Complex, shaking off an 8-0 loss to Western Oregon University in Game 1 and ending a Great Northwest Athletic Conference doubleheader with a 3-0 triumph in the nightcap.

Three WOU pitchers combined for a four-hit shutout in the opener, before Steen Fredrickson and Adam Cox reciprocated with a two-hit shutout in the second game of the day. Friday’s doubleheader took place on the campus of George Fox University, due to unplayable conditions at the Wolves’ home field in Monmouth, Ore.

WOU moved to 5-8 overall on the year with the split, and remained in first place in the GNAC standings at 5-1 in league play. MSUB meanwhile went to 9-7 on the season, and is a game back of WOU at 4-2 in conference games.

Game 1 – Western Oregon 8, MSU Billings 0

A six-run sixth inning blew Friday’s first game open, as Connor McCord hit a three-run home run, Justin Wakem had an RBI-single, and Cody Dykstra plated a pair with a base hit to drive MSUB starter Sam Wong from the game.

Wong had pitched well up to that point, and finished the day going 5-plus innings with eight runs on eight hits, and a season-high four strikeouts against just one walk. Talon Derrick was stellar in finishing the game out of the bullpen, as he struck out a pair and gave up just two hits in three shutout innings.

Alex Roth had MSUB’s number from the start however, as he logged seven shutout innings to earn his first win of the year. The right-hander struck out six and walked one, while scattering four hits. Kolby Bales and Dylan Myers each tossed a perfect frame of relief, as MSUB was shut out for the second straight game.

Andrew Schleusner doubled in the fourth inning and Kaleo Johnson advanced to second after a hit-by-pitch in the seventh, but those were the only two runners the ‘Jackets managed to get into scoring position against the front end of WOU’s pitching staff.

The Wolves got on the board in the fourth inning, when Griffey Halle lived up to his namesake and blasted a two-run home run. Wong shook it off however, and struck out the side in the bottom of the fifth inning to keep the game close. Back-to-back hits and an error loaded the bases to start the sixth however, and the Wolves scored four of their six runs in the frame before an out was recorded.

Niles Nygaard, Jared McDonald, and Halle each finished with a pair of hits for WOU, which was wildly efficient as it left just two runners on the base paths during the opening game.

Game 2 – MSU Billings 3, Western Oregon 0 (7 Innings)

Fredrickson, who has already claimed GNAC Pitcher of the Week honors twice this year, was sensational again as he improved to 4-0 on the year with five shutout innings. He had four strikeouts and zero walks, and the Wolves managed just two runners in scoring position.

WOU’s best chance to score came in the bottom of the first, when Martinez singled and worked his way around to third base. Fredrickson notched his first punch-out of the day against McCord however, ending the inning and stranding the runner 90 feet from the plate.

Gabe Benavides got off to a good start for WOU on the mound, as he posted three straight zeroes to start the day. MSUB’s offense jolted to life in the top of the fourth, when Kade Hall hit his third home run of the year to right-center. Johnson followed with a double down the right-field line, but the ‘Jackets left him at second base as Benavides escaped allowing just one run.

Schleusner provided an RBI-double in the fifth, and Conner Linebarger lofted a sacrifice fly to center in the sixth to extend MSUB’s lead to 3-0.

By then, Adam Cox had taken over and also continued his incredible start to the year. Cox had three strikeouts in two shutout relief innings, and earned his third save of the year. Through 8 1/3 innings pitched, Cox has not allowed a hit or run, and has struck out 12 of the 25 batters he has faced.

Nick Parr gave up one run on one hit in one inning of relief, while Jake Simmons pitched a scoreless top of the seventh for WOU out of the bullpen.

The ‘Jackets had chances to widen the gap throughout the game, as they left nine runners on base. Johnson finished 2-for-4 with a run scored to pace MSUB offensively.

THE BUZZ: Fredrickson was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…MSUB is now 21-67 all-time against the Wolves, and is 10-29 in away games…both teams played solid defense on Friday, as MSUB had just one error and WOU had two…Cox continued to build on his MSUB record for career saves, as he now has 12 in his four years as a ‘Jacket…Fredrickson has already matched his win total from a year ago, and continues to lead the GNAC with 28 strikeouts this year.

AHEAD: The series concludes on Saturday in Portland, Ore., with another doubleheader this time starting at 1 p.m. Pacific time. The final two games will be played at Porter Park on the campus of Concordia University,