(MSU Billings release)
BILLINGS – Coming off of a 2-3 performance at the Tournament of Champions in Turlock, Calif., the Montana State University Billings Yellowjackets (12-17, 2-6 GNAC) will start the heart of their 2018 Great Northwest Athletic Conference schedule with four home games against the Western Washington Vikings (11-20, 5-7 GNAC) this weekend.
With cold weather forecast for Saturday, the teams will play three games on Friday starting at 10 a.m. with games scheduled to follow at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, the teams will play a single game with first pitch scheduled for 12 p.m.
MSU Billings split their first GNAC series in Burnaby, B.C. against Simon Fraser before being swept by Central Washington to start the league year 2-6. Last week, the ‘Jackets faced five regional opponents at the Tournament of Champions. MSUB collected wins over San Francisco State University and Cal State, Monterey Bay. The ‘Jackets dropped a pair of one-run games to Stanislaus State and Dominican University of California while falling 9-1 to the No. 3 Chico State Wildcats.
Heather Tracy and Amanda Barham each collected hits in every game over the span of the tournament and come into the weekend with five-game hitting streaks. Myrissa Prince had a very productive weekend with six hits, two doubles and four RBIs in 18 at bats.
Megan Dettling picked up her third win of the season in the game against San Francisco as the senior allowed just five hits over the seven inning outing. On Sunday, it was Maddy Lincoln’s turn in the circle as the sophomore racked up eight strikeouts over seven innings against Monterey Bay. It was Lincoln’s team-leading seventh win of the season.
“We are excited to get on our home field,” head coach Jessica Rayman said following 29 road-games to start the season. “This will give us an opportunity to build some momentum. We take a lot of pride in playing in front of our home fans and playing on our field where we put in all the hours of work that it takes to compete at this level. Our defense stepped up last week and now with only GNAC games remaining, it is time for us to put it all together.”
SIERIES BREAKDOWN: The Yellowjackets split last season’s series against the eventual GNAC Tournament Champion Vikings. MSU Billings started and ended the series with 7-6 and 7-4 wins as the Vikings recorded shutout victories in games two and three. The ‘Jackets are 38-29 all-time against the Vikings with neither team recording a sweep since MSUB took four games in Billings back in 2009. Western Washington won 3 of 4 games the last time they visited Avitus Group Stadium in 2016.
Western Washington currently sits in fifth-place in the GNAC after playing a four-game series against Simon Fraser and Northwest Nazarene as well as doubleheaders against Western Oregon and Concordia (Ore.). WWU lost 3 of 4 games against Simon Fraser and won 3 of 4 against Northwest Nazarene. They took two losses in a doubleheader against Western Oregon and split a doubleheader against Concordia.
“Western Washington has a solid team,” Rayman said of MSUB’s weekend opponent. “They have a good pitching staff, play good defense and make the plays they need offensively. They’ve had success in the past so we don’t expect anything but four tough games whenever we play them.”
The Vikings are coming off of a 2-3 performance at the Tournament of Champions last week with wins over Hawaii Hilo and Cal State, East Bay.
NUMBERS AND NOTES
HALFWAY POINT: Last week the Yellowjackets surpassed the official halfway point of the regular season as they played five games bringing their season total to 29 contests in 2018. A game against Sonoma State was cancelled due to rain so the ‘Jackets only have 20 games remaining this season. All 20 of those contests will come against GNAC teams and 16 of those will be played at home. Starting with Western Washington this weekend, MSUB will host 12 straight games with the Concordia (Ore.) Cavaliers and the Saint Martin’s Saint to follow the Vikings. The ‘Jackets will then hit the road in late April for a series a Western Oregon before returning home for a final four-game meeting with Northwest Nazarene.
THE ROAD OFT TRAVELED: With 29 straight games away from home, the Yellowjackets will host a game at Avitus Group Stadium for the first time in 331 calendar days. MSUB has made trips to Las Vegas, St. George, Utah, Denver and Golden, Colo., Burnaby, B.C., Ellensburg, Wash., and Turlock, Calif. over the first 51 days of the season. Over the next month, the ‘Jackets will only play four games away from home when they travel to Western Oregon in late April.
TRACY PACES THE CONFERENCE: Capping off an amazing career, Heather Tracy has been the most dominant player in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference through the first 29 games of her senior year. She leads the league in nearly every offensive category including hits, average, runs scored, home runs, RBI, total bases, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Her 15 steals this season rank second in the conference and her 55 hits rank second in all of Division II. With a .519 batting average, Tracy is seventh in the nation. She is currently on pace to break her MSUB-single season hit record of 82 hits from last season.
RAISING THE BAR: Twenty-nine games into the season, senior Amanda Barham has set a number of career bests. Currently the MSUB center fielder has had a career year with 30 hits, four doubles, 11 walks and a .306 batting average, all ranking as the best numbers of her Yellowjacket tenure. She has tied single-season bests for RBI (9), triples (1) and stolen bases (2). She is also just four runs away from eclipsing her freshman season total of 22. Her slugging (.367) and on-base (.378) percentages are each at career-high marks and she has the lowest strikeout-to-at bat ratio (.112) of her career while come to the plate 98 times this season.
MYRISSA MADNESS: March has been a breakout month at the plate for Myrissa Prince as the senior has collected 16 hits over 13 games. Her .390 batting average this month has brought her average to .292 this season. Since the end of February, prince has only recorded two hit-less games which is outnumbered by four multi-hit outings for the second baseman. She has five doubles, eight RBI and eight runs scored this month. In the ‘Jackets last game against Cal State, Monterey Bay, the senior marked the first two-stolen base game of her MSUB career. She is one of three Yellowjackets to start all 29 games this season along with Barham and Tracy.
GNAC SNAPSHOT: After all eight conference teams participated in the Tournament of Champions last week, the league standings remain the same. Central Washington continues to sit in first place with a 19-5, 8-0 GNAC record after winning 5 of 6 games in Turlock. Seventh-place Saint Martin’s finished the tournament hot, winning their final four games at the TOC making them 13-12, 3-5 GNAC. It is the first time this season that the Saints have had a record above .500. Seven of the eight conference teams to compete at the TOC won at least two games with Simon Fraser being the only exception.
Western Washington University Vikings
Friday, March 30 | 10 A.M. | 12 P.M. | 2 P.M. | Avitus Group Stadium
Saturday, March 31 | 12 P.M.| Avitus Group Stadium
2018 Record: 11-20, 5-7 GNAC
Head Coach: Amy Suiter (7th Season)
2017 Record: 34-19, 19-9 GNAC (2nd Place)
Roster | Stats
Shearyna Labasan sparks the Vikings lineup with a .422 batting average and a team-best 17 runs, seven doubles and 35 hits. The junior has one home run and four RBI while recording 11 multi-hit games in 2018. A sophomore slugger, Paityn Cyr has five home runs and a team-high 18 RBI for WWU.
In the circle, Labasan has collected four wins in 14 starts with a team-best 3.49 ERA. Last years’ ace, Anna Kasner has a 3.65 ERA and a team-high five wins to start the season. She has tallied 85 strikeouts in 76.2 innings while issuing just 19 walks.
The Vikings have the lowest team batting average in the league hitting at a .253 clip. They have scored 99 runs, the second fewest in the GNAC and have a conference-high 163 strikeouts at the plate. Western Washington’s 3.85 ERA places fourth in the league and their 157 batters fanned paces the conference. In 31 games, the Vikings’ starter has gone the distance a GNAC-leading 23 times.