(MSU Billings release)
BILLINGS – Picking up its first four-game sweep since the 2016 season, the Montana State University Billings baseball team defeated visiting Concordia University twice on Saturday at Dehler Park to extend its lead atop the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
The Yellowjackets improved to 26-12 overall, and officially locked up a spot in the GNAC Championships as they moved seven games clear of Central Washington University in first place at 25-7 in conference play.
In a doubleheader that had an eerily similar feel to Friday, the ‘Jackets rolled to a 17-4 win in the opener before hanging on for a 7-6 triumph in the series finale. Colton Cosner hit his second home run of the season in Game 1, a grand slam that gave him four of his seven RBIs in the contest. Ryan Myers added his GNAC-leading 11th home run of the season, and 14 of MSUB’s 30 hits on Saturday went for extra bases.
Game 1 – MSU Billings 17, Concordia 4
The ‘Jackets scored in each of the first four innings, punctuated with a five-run bottom of the fourth to make the score 9-0 early on. An offense that totaled 18 hits in the opener tacked on four runs each in the sixth and seventh to put the game out of reach and seal the series victory.
Michael Gahan earned the win in the opener, striking out five and walking a pair while giving up just one run on seven hits in six innings of work. Josh Harrington and Brandon Maassen combined to finish the game on the mound for the ‘Jackets, while Concordia used four different arms in the loss.
Starter Isaac Mitchum surrendered seven runs on nine hits in three innings pitched, and Wyatt Wentz did the bulk of the relief pitching with 3 1/3 frames out of the bullpen.
Jalen Garcia had the first of his five RBIs on the day in the opening inning, as he doubled home Kade Hall for MSUB’s first run of the day. Kaleo Johnson followed with an RBI-double to make it 2-0, and after a single run in the second Myers drilled his 22nd career home run over the fence in left to make it 4-0 after three innings.
MSUB’s first big frame of the day came in the fourth, as Garcia had two more RBIs on a base hit and Andrew Schleusner contributed an RBI-double. Cosner had the first of his incredible seven RBIs with a two-out base hit, making it a 9-0 ballgame.
Mitch Bevacqua rode his third home run of the season out to center field in the fifth inning, but it was the lone blemish against Gahan on the day. The righty logged a career-high 111 pitches and improved to 3-0 on the season.
The four-run sixth inning came at the hands of Cosner’s grand slam, as his towering fly ball to right carried out of the park and brought the score to 13-1. The junior added a two-run double to right-center to cap off his big day in the seventh, and Chase Teter picked up an RBI-single to give all nine players in MSUB’s starting lineup a hit in the game.
Cosner nearly had a chance to tie the MSUB single-game record of nine RBIs in a game (Colby Robison, April 26, 2013), but was left on deck with two runners on base when the final out was made in the bottom of the eighth inning.
CU managed a run in the eighth and two more in the ninth, but by then the game was well out of hand. CU stranded a dozen runners in the game, eight of which came in the first four innings as the Cavaliers threatened but came up short multiple times early in the game.
Game 2 – MSU Billings 7, Concordia 6 (7 Innings)
An identical score to Friday’s 7-6, extra-inning ballgame was a fitting finish to the series, as once again the ‘Jackets won in dramatic fashion.
Concordia overcame a 7-2 deficit with a four-run sixth inning, and pushed two runners into scoring position with two outs in the top of the seventh inning. MSUB right-hander Travis Edgar dug deep, and coaxed a pop fly off the bat of leadoff hitter Cole Crosby that Garcia tracked down in left center to end the game.
The Yellowjackets supplied starter Jared Winslow with a comfortable lead, scoring three runs each in the third and fourth to jump ahead in the finale. Winslow earned his fourth victory of the season, striking out three and giving up two runs on six hits through 4 2/3 innings pitched.
Garcia’s fourth triple of the year plated Hall to start the third inning, and Myers and Hayden Humphrey each followed with an RBI to make the score 3-0.
CU starter Trevor Huddleston, who tossed a two-hit shutout against the Yellowjackets on March 4 in Portland, Ore., was driven from the game in the fourth inning amid another MSUB rally. Three straight RBI-hits from Hall, Garcia, and Myers doubled the Yellowjackets’ tally, making the score 6-1.
The ‘Cavs got a run back on a base hit by Kyle Henderson in the fifth, and came inches away from plating two more with two outs in the frame. Dominic Enbody drilled a high fly ball to right field, where Cosner traced it onto the warning track, leapt, and secured the catch to strand two more runners.
Cosner backed up the big defensive play with a one-out triple in the bottom of the inning, and came around to score what ended up being the winning run on an RBI-single from Setian.
A leadoff walk spelled trouble for the ‘Jackets in the top of the sixth, and Jordan Farhat delivered a two-run single after an RBI-knock from Justin Walsh to make it a 7-5 game. With two outs in the frame, Henderson landed an RBI-double in right, but Edgar got Bevacqua to ground out to short to keep the lead in MSUB’s hands.
The Yellowjackets’ 6-foot-7 right hander tossed 28 pitches in his 1 1/3 innings of relief, allowing no runs or hits to earn his second save of the season.
Andrew Wilmon kept CU in the game out of the bullpen, as he struck out three and gave up a pair of runs over the final 2 2/3 innings.
THE BUZZ: Cosner was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…the Yellowjackets are now 19-8 all-time against CU and are 9-3 in home games…Myers is tied with Luke Reinschmidt for No. 2 in MSUB history with 22 home runs…the senior is now three home runs away from tying the all-time mark of 25 long balls held by Brody Miller (2011-15)…MSUB’s last four-game sweep came on May 5-6, 2016 at home against Saint Martin’s University…the Yellowjackets totaled 46 runs in the four-game series against CU…MSUB increased its school record home run total to 51, and is now 12 home runs shy of matching the GNAC single-season record of 63 (Northwest Nazarene, 2017).
AHEAD: The ‘Jackets remain at home next week to host Saint Martin’s University in another four-game GNAC series. Doubleheaders are scheduled for 1 p.m. on April 27-28 at Dehler Park.