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MSU Billings wins series after Saturday sweep

Posted at 8:54 PM, Mar 17, 2018

(MSU Billings release)

LACEY, Wash. – The Montana State University Billings offense came alive on Saturday at the SMU Baseball Field, as the Yellowjacket baseball team scored 26 total runs in a doubleheader sweep of Great Northwest Athletic Conference opponent Saint Martin’s University.

MSUB (13-9, 8-4 GNAC) claimed Game 1 11-4 before a 15-9 triumph in the nightcap and series finale. The Yellowjackets totaled 30 hits in the doubleheader, 11 of which went for extra bases.

Junior Conner Linebarger was 4-for-6 with seven RBIs and hit his second home run of the year, while Kaleo Johnson was 3-for-6 with four runs and four RBIs including his first home run as a Yellowjacket.

Ryne Oshiro went 4-for-7 with three runs scored to pace the SMU offense. Saint Martin’s moved to 3-17 with the loss and is now 2-10 in conference play.

“Today was about going out and competing as a group, and we really have to tip our caps to Saint Martin’s as they played hard all day,” said MSUB head coach Aaron Sutton. “As a group we talked a lot about controlling the controllable better, and today we improved. We’ve got to continue to get better each day, and we look forward to turning our attention to a very good NNU team.”

Game 1 – MSU Billings 11, Saint Martin’s 4

The ‘Jackets jumped ahead with a three-run first inning, and never looked back as they led from start-to-finish in Game 3 of the four-game series.

Junior Jared Winslow picked up his second victory of the season, giving up three runs – two earned – on four hits with three strikeouts and three walks in five innings pitched. Sam Muskat bridged the gap with one run allowed in three solid innings of relief, and Tanner Cantwell struck out a pair in a perfect ninth inning to seal the victory.

Though MSUB scored 11 times on 12 hits in the game, it could have been a much higher run total as the ‘Jackets stranded 10 runners on base. Ryan Myers got the scoring started with an RBI-single in the top of the first, and Linebarger backed that up with a two-run base knock to make the score 3-0. The ‘Jackets added a run each in the third, fourth, and fifth, steadily adding on throughout the early innings.

Johnson had a pair of RBIs by the end of the fifth inning, as he drove in Myers with a double in the third and hit his first home run as a Yellowjacket in the top of the fifth.

After tossing up three straight zeroes to start the day, Winslow surrendered a pair of runs on a balk and a double by Ryan Colvin in the fourth inning. The Saints scored again on RBI-singles by Colton Peha in the fifth and Jake Leonard in the sixth to pull within two runs, but five unanswered runs by the ‘Jackets late in the game prevented SMU from completing the comeback.

A two-run knock by Linebarger and a sacrifice fly by Wyatt Setian made it 9-4 after the seventh, and Kade Hall hit his fourth home run of the year to start the eighth inning and help push the game out of reach.

The Saints used four different pitchers in Game 1, with starter Ryan Dorney taking the loss after giving up five runs on seven hits in three innings. Aaron Shoup surrendered six runs – three earned – in four innings out of the bullpen, and Garrison Ritter and Zach Stevenson each logged a scoreless frame to end the game.

Game 2 – MSU Billings 15, Saint Martin’s 9 (7 Innings)

Unlike the opener, MSUB had to overcome an early deficit in Game 2 in order to earn the series victory. After falling behind 3-0 in the first two innings, the ‘Jackets put up a five-spot in the third to take a lead they never relinquished.

A three-run fifth followed by a seven-run sixth secured the doubleheader sweep, as the ‘Jackets reached a season-high 18 hits in the seven-inning contest.

Among the five different Yellowjacket pitchers in the game, Talon Derrick earned the win as he gave up one run in two innings of relief. Corbin Smith also tossed two frames, and Travis Edgar and Carson Woolery each added one inning with no earned runs allowed to finish off the day.

A fielding error and a passed ball plated SMU’s first run of the game, and a wild pitch and a second passed ball in the second inning gave the Saints an early 3-0 lead.

Hall led off the third with a double, and once again the middle of MSUB’s order delivered as Myers, Johnson, and Andrew Schleusner combined for three straight hits and four RBIs. The Saints got one run back in the bottom of the frame on an RBI-single by Oshiro, but MSUB held onto the lead and had another big inning in the fifth.

This time it was Landon Peterson who led off with a double, before Caje Golden and Jalen Garcia followed with run-scoring extra-base hits. Garcia finished Game 2 4-for-4 with three RBIs, and also had a walk and a stolen base.

SMU refused to go away, as another RBI-single by Oshiro and an error by MSUB narrowed its advantage to just 8-6. The game-defining inning was the top of the sixth however, as the ‘Jackets sent 11 men to the plate in the seven-run frame. A two-run home run by Linebarger and a two-run double by Hall highlighted the big inning, and put the game out of reach for the Saints.

An error to start the bottom of the seventh translated into three unearned runs for SMU, but Woolery ended the game with a strikeout.

The top-five hitters in MSUB’s lineup went 13-for-20 with 10 RBIs, nine runs scored, and five extra-base hits in the game.

SMU starter Tanner Inouye gave up five runs on seven hits in 2 1/3 innings, and five different relievers finished the game out of the bullpen.

IN HONOR OF COACH GARLAND: Saturday’s doubleheader was played in honor of SMU baseball head coach Ken Garland, who passed away on Friday evening. Garland was a 10-year coaching veteran of the Saints, and was a well-respected Pacific Northwest coaching figure in a career that spanned more than three decades. “It was special to be able to honor Coach Garland today before the game,” said Sutton. “Ken impacted the game in a great way and touched so many lives.”

THE BUZZ: Johnson was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…MSUB is now 38-44 all-time against SMU and is 19-21 in games played in Lacey…Linebarger’s five RBIs in Game 1 were a career high…his previous career high for RBIs in a game was three, which he achieved on three different occasions last season…Game 2 marked Garcia’s first-career four-hit game…the preseason all-region selection had reached three hits in a game on seven different occasions…MSUB’s 18 hits were the most by the team in a game since a 20-hit performance in an 18-5 win over Saint Martin’s on April 23, 2017 in Billings, Mont.

NEXT UP: MSUB is on the road again next week, for another four-game GNAC series against Northwest Nazarene University. Doubleheaders are scheduled for 1 p.m. next Friday and noon next Saturday at Vail Field in Nampa, Idaho.