(MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – The latest home debut in Montana State University Billings baseball history has finally arrived, as the Yellowjackets will open the doors at Dehler Park this weekend for a four-game series against Concordia University.
Great Northwest Athletic Conference play continues on Friday and Saturday, with 1 p.m. doubleheaders scheduled for each day. It is also Little League Weekend at Dehler Park, with children ages 5-14 who wear their team jersey to the games on Saturday receiving free admission including one adult. On Sunday, Little Leaguers are welcomed back to Dehler Park to participate in a youth camp under the instruction of MSUB coaches and players. Register for the youth camp online here.
This weekend will mark the fourth time since baseball was added at MSUB in 2006 that the team has opened its home schedule in April. The date of April 20 surpasses the 2007 home opener on April 13, as the latest ever for the program. The Yellowjackets are home the next three weekends, hosting Saint Martin’s University next weekend and Central Washington University on Senior Weekend after that.
Despite playing all 34 of their games this year on the road, the ‘Jackets are at the top of the GNAC standings with a 5.5-game cushion in first place. MSUB is 22-12 overall, and holds a 21-7 record in league play with a dozen games left on the regular-season schedule. MSUB has its sights on its third GNAC regular-season title in the last four seasons, after it won that title in back-to-back years in 2015-16. The ‘Jackets are also close to wrapping up a berth in their fourth straight GNAC Championships tournament, which is reserved for the top-four teams in the regular-season standings and will run May 9-11 at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Wash.
MSUB is coming off its fourth straight GNAC series win, defeating Northwest Nazarene University in 3 of 4 games in Nampa, Idaho last weekend. After splitting their first conference series of the year at Western Oregon on March 9-10, MSUB has won every series to ascend to the top of the conference.
REGIONAL RANKINGS: The Yellowjackets are seventh in the latest National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association west region rankings, released on Monday. The first NCAA Division II west region rankings will be released next week, and will eventually determine the six-team field to advance to the 2018 west region playoffs at the site of the No. 1 seed. The Yellowjackets are in search of the program’s first-ever bid to the national tournament, and are eight wins away from tying the school record for wins in a year after the 2016 team went 30-20.
BEST OFFENSE, EVER? The torrid offense MSUB has displayed is among the best not only in school history, but within the scope of the GNAC which dates back to the 2002 season. Last week, MSUB broke the school record for home runs and its total of 46 is already the sixth-highest mark in GNAC single-season history. MSUB is currently averaging 8.03 runs per game, with only the 2012 Western Oregon squad averaging more runs per game in a GNAC season (8.24). The Yellowjackets currently have the highest-ever GNAC single-season marks in home runs per game (1.35), and walks per game (4.85), and their 7.32 RBIs per game is the second-highest total.
Concordia University Cavaliers
Friday, April 20 – 1 PM Doubleheader – Dehler Park
Saturday, April 21 – 1 PM Doubleheader – Dehler Park
2018 Record: 15-22, 14-13 GNAC
Head Coach: Rob Vance, 19th season
Last Series: MSUB 3-1, March 3-4 at Portland | MSUB 4, CU 2 | MSUB 8, CU 3 | MSUB 4, CU 0 | CU 2, MSUB 0
Concordia enters this week’s series on a roll, with wins in its last three conference series. CU swept Saint Martin’s in four games on March 30-31, before taking 3 of 4 from Central Washington the following week. Most recently, the Cavaliers took 2 of 3 from Western Oregon in a series that concluded on Monday in Portland.
While offense is not CU’s strong suit, the ‘Cavs have been solid on the mound as of late and rank second in the GNAC with a team ERA of 5.24. Trevor Huddleston has been one of the top throwers for CU, allowing three earned runs or fewer in each of his last six starts and logging three quality starts along the way. Huddleston has struck out 35 in 44 1/3 innings pitched to lead the team.
Jake Roes has been perhaps CU’s most consistent starter, with a team-high 57 1/3 innings pitched while starting a game in all 10 series this season. Roes struggled against the Yellowjackets last time, giving up six hits with four walks and no strikeouts in three innings pitched on March 3.
Isaac Mitchum has emerged into a starter over the last four series, during which he has logged an ERA of 2.08 with 19 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched.
Offensively, Dominic Enbody has worked his way into the starting lineup and leads the team with a .375 batting average. Andrew Barrera is also a top hitter with a .341 average, and his 17 RBIs are second most on the team. Mitch Bevacqua is the team’s leader with 21 RBIs and he has hit two of CU’s three home runs this season.
As a team CU has a .261 batting average and averages 4.49 runs per game.
The Series: MSUB is 15-8 all-time against CU and has a record of 5-3 in home games. The Yellowjackets have won four series and split one among the five played since CU joined the GNAC at the start of the 2016 season.
Last Time Out: MSUB won the first three games in Portland to secure the series victory. Huddleston baffled the ‘Jackets in the finale however, tossing a two-hit shutout with eight strikeouts marking one of just two times this year MSUB went without a run in a game.