(MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – Jalen Garcia helped the Montana State University Billings baseball team break in Dehler Park with a doubleheader sweep on Friday, as the hometown star delivered a walk-off double in Game 2 of a Great Northwest Athletic Conference doubleheader against Concordia University.
Garcia hit his sixth home run of the year in a 16-0 rout in the opener, and saved his biggest hit of the day for last as he pushed the first-place Yellowjackets to a 7-6 triumph in the nightcap. Steen Fredrickson and Caje Golden combined for a one-hit shutout in Game 1 on the mound, while Kaleo Johnson homered twice to push his total on the season to nine long balls.
MSUB made it four straight wins with the doubleheader sweep, and improved to 24-12 overall and 23-7 in league play. The Yellowjackets now have a six-game lead over Central Washington atop the conference standings. Concordia slipped under .500 in league play at 14-15 with the losses, and is now 15-24 overall on the season.
Game 1 – MSU Billings 16, Concordia 0
The Cavaliers committed a season-high seven errors in the opener, four of which came during a five-run third inning for MSUB that ultimately came to define the game. The Yellowjackets tacked on 11 runs in the final four frames, and cruised to the lopsided victory with 16 runs on 16 hits.
CU meanwhile managed just one hit – a fifth-inning single by Cole Crosby – as Fredrickson turned in seven stellar innings. The junior right hander kept his 2018 record perfect at 6-0, lowered his earned run average to 3.21, and upped his GNAC-leading strikeout total to 60 with six punch outs on the day. Six walks prevented Fredrickson from a shot at his first collegiate complete game, as he handed the ball off to Golden after 119 pitches through seven innings.
In his first pitching outing of the season, Golden allowed just one baserunner in two shutout frames, with one strikeout to close out the win.
Ryan Myers went 3-for-4 in the opener, and got the scoring started with a two-run double in the bottom of the third inning. Hayden Humphrey, Conner Linebarger, and Andrew Schleusner each followed with RBIs in a frame that started with two misplayed routine ground balls by the CU infield.
Cavalier starter Jake Roes took an unfair loss, as he struck out four and walked just one in his five innings of work. Among the eight runs that Roes surrendered, zero of them were earned as his defense slumped behind him.
The Yellowjackets kept their feet on the gas with three more runs in the fifth inning, distancing themselves to the tune of 8-0 by the end of the frame. Johnson’s first home run of the day was a line-drive shot that cleared the fence in left field in the bottom of the sixth, and the third baseman followed with his most majestic home run of the season in the seventh. This time driving in Myers with a two-run shot, Johnson crushed an inside pitch over the left-field fence that bounced up against the black chain-link fence protecting the outer limits of Dehler Park.
Johnson’s long home run came just two batters after Garcia’s two-run shot to a similar part of the yard, as the Yellowjackets increased their school-record home run total to 49 on the season.
Concordia’s best chance to score came in the fourth inning, when Eddie Vasquez raced around to third on a fielding error by the ‘Jackets. CU also moved a runner into scoring position in the ninth, but the ‘Cavs stranded eight baserunners total while failing to score.
Seven different Yellowjackets had two or more RBIs in Game 1, and four different players had two or more runs scored.
Game 2 – MSU Billings 7, Concordia 6 (8 Innings)
The Cavaliers rallied to score three runs in the top of the seventh inning, pulling even at 6-6 and forcing extra innings. Though CU got off to a 3-1 lead in the game, a defensive letdown was once again the cause for a big inning by the ‘Jackets. A dropped pop fly started the bottom of the fifth inning, and 10 batters later the Yellowjackets had scored five times to take a 6-3 lead.
Back-to-back doubles by Hall and Garcia started the scoring, and a two-out, two-run double by Schleusner completed the rally and moved MSUB six outs away from the win.
Closer Adam Cox retired the side in order in the top of the sixth, but the ‘Cavs refused to give in during their game-changing rally in the seventh. Three consecutive CU hitters faced a 1-2 count before each singling with two outs, as Mitch Bevacqua plated a pair with a single and Dominic Enbody evened the score with a base hit to right field. Cox wound up getting out of the jam and leaving the bases loaded, but the damage had been done as CU bought an extra frame.
Wyatt Setian jumped on the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the eighth for a one-out single, and after running the count full against reliever Dylan Diaz, Garcia ended the game with his drive to deep right-center.
Diaz took the loss, but pitched well as he struck out five and walked none while scattering six hits in 3 1/3 relief innings. Kaleb Jones started for CU, and gave up six runs on five hits with one strikeout and three walks in 4 1/3 innings pitched.
It took a stellar defensive play by Setian at shortstop to thwart a first-inning rally by CU, as the ‘Cavs put runners on the corners with two outs and threatened to take an early lead. Bruin Campbell drilled a sharp line drive on the first pitch from Wong, and Setian dove to his back hand to take away what could have been a two-run base hit.
Andrew Barrera was a playmaker for the ‘Cavs in Game 2, tripling and scoring the first run of the game on a wild pitch in the third inning. Gabe Padukiewicz added an RBI-single in the fourth, and Isaiah Hatch made it three straight frames with a run, with a sacrifice fly in the fifth to help the Cavaliers establish the lead midway through the game.
MSUB starter Sam Wong got through four innings, giving up two runs on three hits with a pair of walks and a strikeout. A stellar string of 10 1/3 scoreless innings came to an end for Tristan Shockley, as the righty surrendered one run in his relief frame before Cox. Talon Derrick solidified the win by pitching a scoreless top of the eighth inning, logging a strikeout and pitching around a single by CU.
The Yellowjackets left seven runners on base in Game 2 compared to nine left on by the ‘Cavs. Much of Concordia’s improved defense was thanks to new second baseman Justin Walsh, who had a pair of stellar plays on tough ground balls up the middle.
THE BUZZ: Garcia was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…the Yellowjackets are now 17-8 all-time against Concordia and are 7-3 in home games.
NEXT UP: The series concludes on Saturday with another doubleheader scheduled for a 1 p.m. first pitch. Live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available through MSUB’s Stretch Internet portal online.