(MSU Billings release)
NAMPA, Idaho – Topping a home run record it set last season, Montana State University Billings hit four long balls on Friday to reach an unprecedented 46 in 2018 while beating host Northwest Nazarene University twice at Vail Baseball Field in Great Northwest Athletic Conference action.
Kaleo Johnson, the GNAC’s leading hitter, homered twice in the doubleheader, while Kade Hall added his eighth and Chase Teter hit his third. MSUB claimed the opener 18-10, before coming from behind for a 3-2 triumph in the finale to lock down its fourth straight series victory.
The Yellowjackets further distanced themselves atop the GNAC standings, moving to 22-12 overall and 21-7 in conference play with the wins. Northwest Nazarene meanwhile fell to 13-25 overall and is now 11-17 in conference action.
Johnson finished the day 4-for-7 with four RBIs and four runs scored to lead the Yellowjackets at the plate. Rightfielder Colton Cosner also had a big day at the plate, going 5-for-8 with two doubles and a triple.
Game 1 – MSU Billings 18, Northwest Nazarene 10
NNU hit the ground running with two runs in the top of the first inning, but the ‘Jackets responded immediately by batting around and scoring six times in the bottom of the frame.
The Yellowjackets never trailed after that, efficiently scoring 18 times on 17 hits in the opening game. Teter’s third home run of the year came in the first inning and also drove in Cosner, who hit his first double of the day. Not only did Cosner get it done at the plate all day long, but he gunned down Bennett Tabaracci from right field as the NNU leftfielder tried to score from second on a base hit in the top of the second inning.
Back-to-back doubles by Johnson and Andrew Schleusner gave MSUB three more runs in the second inning, but NNU refused to go away despite trailing big early.
Jesse Hilyard hit a two-run home run in the fourth, part of a three-run frame that pulled NNU back within four runs.
Johnson’s first home run of the day followed in the fifth however, soaring deep over the fence in left-center. Each time NNU crept back into the game, the ‘Jackets had an answer. Parker Price hit a two-run double in the top of the seventh to cut the score to 14-10, but Hall countered in the bottom of the inning by kicking off a three-run frame with a solo home run.
NNU utilized seven different pitchers in the opener, with starter Adam Paulson taking the loss after allowing all six first-inning runs.
Pitching just 20 miles from his home town of Boise, senior Talon Derrick earned the win with 2 1/3 solid innings out of the bullpen. Josh Harrington finished the game off with a scoreless ninth inning, after Tristan Shockley extended his scoreless innings streak to 10 1/3 innings.
NNU shortstop Justin Folz went 5-for-5 and scored three times to lead NNU in the opener, but the Nighthawks left 11 runners on base in the loss.
Game 2 – MSU Billings 3, Northwest Nazarene 2 (7 Innings)
Wyatt Setian had one of the biggest hits of the weekend, drilling a two-out, go-ahead, RBI-double to center field in the bottom of the sixth inning. The clutch at-bat came on the heels of his strike out with the bases loading two innings earlier, as the freshman refocused and delivered what proved to be the game-winning run.
The big swing of the bat helped the ‘Jackets inch past NNU starter Cooper Webster, who suffered a tough defeat despite 5 2/3 rock-solid innings. Webster had four strikeouts and four walks, giving up three runs on seven hits while throwing 111 pitches.
MSUB starter Jared Winslow was similarly impressive through five innings of work, striking out a pair and walking none while giving up two runs on three hits. Jalen Garcia helped out his starter with a web gem in the top of the second, sprinting into the right-center gap and diving to take away an extra-base hit from Hilyard for the first out of the inning.
While both teams went scoreless through the first three frames, Casey Sheehan and Folz drilled back-to-back solo home runs in the fourth to give NNU the late advantage in the game.
Hall drew a leadoff walk in the fifth, and after moving to third base came home to score MSUB’s first run on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Myers. Johnson followed with a solo shot that sneaked over the center-field fence, evening the score with a big two-out swing of the bat.
The ‘Jackets held their breath in the top of the sixth inning, when Folz’ deep fly ball to left chased Hall onto the warning track before he leapt to snag it at the wall.
The big play set up Setian’s game winning hit in the bottom of the inning, but NNU didn’t go quietly in the top of the seventh. A single, a walk, and a passed ball put runners on second and third with two outs, but closer Adam Cox emphatically struck out pinch hitter Larsson Chapman to end the game and complete the series win.
NNU managed just four hits in the nightcap, while MSUB had seven knocks and left seven runners on base.
THE BUZZ: Cosner was tabbed the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…MSUB is now 50-47 all-time against NNU and is 26-23 in games played in Nampa…MSUB is now 14 home runs away from breaking the GNAC single-season record of 59, held by the 2010 Western Oregon team…Garcia had two stolen bases in Game 1, pushing his MSUB single-season record total to 20 on the year…Cox earned his GNAC-leading sixth save of the year.
COMING UP: MSUB returns home for the final three series of the 2018 regular season. The Yellowjackets open up against Concorida University with a four-game series at Dehler Park running April 21-22.