(MSU Billings release)
ELLENSBURG, Wash. – Kade Hall led off three different innings with home runs on Friday at the CWU Baseball Field, most importantly sparking a five-run seventh-inning rally to help Montana State University Billings salvage a doubleheader split at Great Northwest Athletic Conference opponent Central Washington University.
The biggest hit in Hall’s 6-for-10 performance on Friday came with MSUB trailing 5-4 in the top of the seventh inning in Game 2. The ‘Jackets went on to win 9-5 in the nightcap, after CWU claimed a wild 14-13 win in the opener on a game-ending passed ball.
The two conference foes kept their 2018 records identical with the split, as each team is 17-11 overall and 12-6 in conference play. GNAC-leading Western Oregon University split a doubleheader against Northwest Nazarene on Friday, and remains one game ahead of MSUB and CWU in first place in the GNAC at 13-5 in league play.
“I am really proud of our guys’ response today after losing a tough one in Game 1,” said MSUB head coach Aaron Sutton. “This group is starting to show some resiliency and they really gutted out Game 2.”
Ryan Myers hit two home runs in Game 2, and Conner Linebarger hit his fourth of the year in the nightcap to bring MSUB’s total to six long balls on the day. “Kade and Conner were men today at the plate, and it was good to see (Sam) Wong with a strong showing on the mound again too,” Sutton said. “Tomorrow will be a battle and the guys will be ready for a tough matchup.”
Ty Deckwa and Justin Hampson each homered for CWU, while Dustin Braun went 6-for-10 in the doubleheader.
Game 1 – Central Washington 14, MSU Billings 13
The ‘Jackets led 7-0 and rallied for a 13-12 edge after the top of the ninth, but Central Washington completed an improbable comeback and swiped the opener on a passed ball in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Four of CWU’s 14 runs in the contest were unearned, as a season-high five defensive miscues by the ‘Jackets cost them dearly in the series opener. Three of the unearned runs came in CWU’s 5-run second inning, which erased MSUB’s early lead and brought the Wildcats to life offensively.
MSUB starter Steen Fredrickson battled through the big frame, and finished his outing with five strikeouts against three walks, and eight runs on nine hits in four innings.
Hall led off the game with a long ball, and Kaleo Johnson and Tanner Cantwell each had an RBI to get MSUB off to a 3-0 start. Back-to-back RBI-doubles by Myers and Johnson drove CWU starter Griffin Davis from the game after just 1 1/3 innings, as he wound up responsible for six runs on five hits.
All five of CWU’s runs in the second inning came with two outs, as the ‘Jackets prolonged the frame with three different errors. Linebarger had his first RBI of the day in the third and a two-run double by Hall made it 10-5 after the fourth, but another big inning prevented MSUB from pulling away.
Christopher Dalto supplied a two-run double, before a wild pitch and RBI-groundout completed a four-run fifth inning by CWU to make it 10-9. Hall led off the seventh with another solo home run, but an RBI-double by Braun and another wild pitch made it an 11-11 ballgame after the stretch.
Right-hander Adam Cox got the ‘Jackets out of the jam by striking out the side to end the seventh inning, but an RBI-single by Mitch Lesmeister in the bottom of the eighth put the ‘Cats three outs away from victory.
Linebarger came up with a clutch two-out, two-run triple to push MSUB back ahead 13-12 in the top of the ninth inning, but the Wildcats had one final push left in them. Braun, James Smith III, and Hampson led off the bottom of the ninth with consecutive singles, and the final pitch of the game eluded Andrew Schleusner to allow Smith to score the winning run.
The ‘Jackets and Wildcats each stranded 11 runners in the game, while CWU out-hit MSUB 18-13 in the opener Friday.
Game 2 – MSU Billings 9, Central Washington 5 (7 Innings)
MSUB refused to lose despite trailing entering the final inning, as Hall’s final swing of the bat ignited the game-winning rally. Linebarger drove in a pair with a single, and two wild pitches gave MSUB enough of a cushion to complete the victory.
Tristan Shockley earned the win with two stellar innings of relief, as he struck out a pair and allowed just one hit while throwing an efficient 19 pitches. MSUB starter Sam Wong had a solid outing with four strikeouts in five innings, but the ‘Cats spoiled his chance to earn a win with a three-run fifth inning to grab a late lead in the game.
Deckwa’s home run made it 1-0 in the first, before solo shots by Myers and Linebarger in the fourth gave the ‘Jackets a temporary lead. It was the first sign of offensive life against CWU starter Connor Stevenson, who took the loss despite seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings pitched.
Myers made it two straight innings with a long ball, as he plated himself and Jalen Garcia with a two-run shot in the fifth to give MSUB a 4-2 lead.
An error to start the bottom of the fifth led to three more unearned runs by the ‘Cats, as they pushed ahead 5-4 before the Yellowjackets’ late comeback.
Myers and Linebarger were each 2-for-4 with three RBIs in the nightcap, and Colton Cosner was 2-for-3 in his first start of the year playing right field.
THE BUZZ: Hall was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…MSUB is now 43-46 all-time against CWU and is 21-25 in games played in Ellensburg…Game 1 on Friday marked the fourth loss of the year on a walk-off against MSUB, which has been the visiting team in all 28 of its games this season…Myers now has 19 career home runs and is six away from tying the MSUB career record of 25 held by Brody Miller (2011-15)…Myers now leads the GNAC with eight home runs on the season…among the eight combined home runs hit by the teams on Friday, seven of them were solo shots.
NEXT UP: The series concludes with another doubleheader on Saturday, with first pitch scheduled for noon Mountain time.