(Editor’s Note: MSUB Athletics Press Release)
BILLINGS, MT – The first complete game of the season, authored by junior lefty Sam Wong, as well as a pair of late rallies lifted the Montana State University Billings baseball team to a doubleheader sweep of Saint Martin’s University Friday afternoon in Great Northwest Athletic Conference action at Dehler Park.
Wong’s seven-inning effort helped the Yellowjackets claim a 6-1 victory in Game 2, after MSUB rallied from an 8-2 deficit to win the opener 14-8. A 10-run fifth inning sparked MSUB’s offense to life in the opener, and the team moved to 28-13 overall and 27-8 in GNAC play with the wins.
MSUB is now one win away from clinching at least a share of the GNAC regular-season title, and wrapping up the No. 1 seed entering the 2018 GNAC Championships.
Ryan Myers paced the Yellowjackets at the plate on Friday, reaching base in 5 of 8 plate appearances while drilling his 12th home run of the year and driving in a team-high five runs. Conner Linebarger chipped in his fifth home run of the year while Andrew Schleusner hit his third, on a day where the ‘Jackets hit .443 (27-for-61) while scoring 20 runs.
Bryant Nakagawa had a grand slam in Game 1 for Saint Martin’s, and Micah McNicoll hit his third long ball of the year in Game 2 for the Saints’ only run of the game. SMU fell to 9-34 with the losses, and is now 8-27 in GNAC play.
Game 1 – MSU Billings 14, Saint Martin’s 8 (7 Innings)
Nakagawa’s grand slam provided SMU with a four-run fourth inning, after which the Saints led by six with time running out for MSUB. The Yellowjackets finally broke through in the fifth inning, as five consecutive hits to start the frame kicked off a 10-run outburst.
Linebarger’s two-run homer came on a 3-2 pitch, as he drilled the eighth pitch of the at-bat over the right-field fence. After a two-run single by Kade Hall, Myers hit a towering two-run shot well over the fence in left-center to up the spread to 12-8.
The offensive rally was enough to back reliever Tristan Shockley, who earned the win after striking out five and walking none while allowing just two hits in four solid innings of relief.
Clark Streby, who had a strong start to the afternoon on the mound, was driven in the middle of MSUB’s big fifth-inning rally. The right-hander wound up allowing seven runs on 10 hits with two strikeouts and no walks in four innings.
The Yellowjackets appeared to escape a jam in the second inning, when Ryne Oshiro lined out to Hall in left with two runners on base. Instead, catcher’s interference was called and Steven Sordahl made it hurt with an ensuing two-run double.
SMU doubled its lead in the third, with an RBI-groundout from Nakagawa and a run-scoring single by Kyle Hirano with two outs. Jalen Garcia got the ‘Jackets on the board with an RBI-single in the bottom of the frame, and after a sacrifice fly by Kaleo Johnson MSUB trailed just 4-2.
Three straight Saints reached to start the top of the fourth however, and Nakagawa rode his grand slam out to left field to open up the big lead. SMU only had one baserunner over the final three innings however, and after the 10-run fifth Schleusner managed to keep a long drive to left just fair for a two-run homer in the sixth to provide a pair of insurance runs.
Hall finished the game 3-for-5 with three runs scored out of the leadoff spot for the ‘Jackets.
Game 2 – MSU Billings 6, Saint Martin’s 1 (7 Innings)
Myers kicked off the game-defining rally in the fifth inning, as all five of the runs scored by MSUB came with two outs in the frame. With the Saints leading 1-0, Myers drilled a long fly ball to right that hit off of the yellow line at the top of the wall and missed being his second homer of the day by inches. The senior settled for a two-run double, and four consecutive base hits followed to push MSUB in front 5-1.
That was all Wong needed to get through the game, as the lefty tossed just 85 pitches in the full seven-inning effort against SMU. Wong had five strikeouts and walked just one, while scattering six hits in the game. The lone blemish against him came in the top of the fourth inning, when McNicoll hit the first pitch he saw over the fence in left for a solo home run.
Garcia added his fifth triple of the season in the sixth inning to score Hall, and Wong worked around a double in the seventh to finish off the victory.
Wong also had one of the defensive plays of the day, catching a throw from Myers and diving into the bag at first just ahead of the speedy Oshiro to prevent an infield single.
Freshman shortstop Wyatt Setian also showed off the leather on Friday, making a leaping catch in the top of the second to take away a hit from Adam Eskil on a sharp line drive headed for center field. In the following frame, Setian ranged deep into the hole and made a diving stop before throwing out Sordahl at first to help Wong strand a baserunner.
THE BUZZ: Myers was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…MSUB is now 40-45 all-time against Saint Martin’s and is 18-23 in home games…after Friday’s games, Myers leads the GNAC in batting average (.393), slugging percentage (.746), on-base percentage (.556) and home runs (12)…he now has 23 career home runs and is two home runs away from matching Brody Miller’s MSUB record of 25 career long balls…reaching the statistical minimum of 250 at-bats on Friday, Myers is now No. 1 in GNAC career history in both slugging percentage (.687) and on-base percentage (.515)…MSUB has scored 343 runs this year, and is 14 away from tying the school record of 357 established in 2015…the triple was Garcia’s fifth of the year, and he needs one more to break the MSUB single-season record of six held by Drew Fosnes (2013).
NEXT UP: The series concludes on Saturday, with a single 9-inning game starting at 1 p.m. Live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available online through the MSUB Stretch Internet portal here.