(Editor’s Note: MSUB Athletics Press Release)
BILLINGS, MT. – As the Yellowjackets bid farewell to six outstanding seniors, Montana State University Billings (23-24, 13-13 GNAC) earned a series split against the first-place Northwest Nazarene Nighthawks (28-21, 19-9 GNAC) on Saturday. NNU scored a 6-5 win in Game 1 while MSUB rebounded with a 6-4 Game 2 victory.
The split keeps the Yellowjackets in the thick of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament hunt as they are now tied with Saint Martin’s (23-20, 13-13 GNAC), Simon Fraser (17-17, 13-13 GNAC) and Wester Oregon (25-23, 13-13 GNAC) for the fourth and final spot in the postseason.
In Game 1 senior Cameron Cassinelli hit her MSUB-career leading 40th home run. The benchmark makes Cassinelli the second-ever player to record 40 or more home runs in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference career. She only trails Western Oregon’s Jessica Hallmark with 45 home runs in her GNAC-career. It was the MSUB first baseman’s 10th home run of the season.
Brittanee Fisher also recorded her 10th home run of the season in the game as she and Cassinelli went back-to-back in the bottom of the second. In Game 2 Fisher hit her team-leading 11th home run of the season with a grand slam in the bottom of the first. It is the first career grand slam for the freshman and she is now leading the conference in big flies.
Also getting in on the deep ball was Madison Kelly. The junior catcher had two home runs on Saturday, including a key insurance run in the Game 2 win.
Heather Tracy picked up one hit today, tying her own record with 82 hits in a season. If the season does end for the ‘Jackets, the senior will finish with an MSUB single-season batting average record at .488.
Jessica Bagnell was stellar at shortstop on Saturday as the senior made great diving plays in each game. Manda Barham also had one of the defensive plays of the day as she robbed a game-tying three-run home run in the top of the seventh in the Game 2 win.
Megan Dettling allowed just three earned runs in Game 1 but the Nighthawks capitalized on a few defensive miscues. The senior struck out five batters in the game. Dettling finishes her career with 329 strikeouts, ranking fourth in MSUB history. Dettling also had an impact at the plate where she went 2-for-6 with two RBIs over the two games. She finished the regular season batting .309 with eight home runs and 36 RBI.
Maddy Lincoln earned her team-leading 12th win in Game 2. The sophomore has improved her number across the board in her second season. While working 26 more innings than her first season, the left-hander has allowed 29 fewer runs and striking out 30 more batters. Her ERA is down to 3.20 and she has 13 complete games this season with three shutouts.
Game 1: Northwest Nazarene 6, MSU Billings 5
The Yellowjackets gave Megan Dettling (8-5, 4.40 ERA) three runs of support in the bottom of the second inning as the heart of the lineup crushed three solo-home runs to open the scoring in Game 1. Cassinelli was the first to go deep with her 10th home run of the season and Fisher followed her with a blast the very next at-bat. Kelly hit the third homer with her second long-ball of the season to make it 3-0 against the Nighthawks’ Jordan Adams.
After Dettling made it through a third scoreless inning in the top of the third, the Yellowjackets added one more run in the bottom of the frame. Dettling helped herself with a sacrifice fly to left field that scored Tracy. Tracy had reached on her 82nd hit of the season and advanced to third with a steal and a wild pitch before coming home on Dettling’s fly ball.
The Nighthawks responded with a three-run fourth inning on the back of an Anna Williams home run. After a single and an error, the ‘Hawks had runners on first and second when Williams went deep on the first pitch of her at-bat. Kylie Orr picked up a double before the inning was over but Dettling held on to the 4-3 lead.
Following a three-batter bottom of the fourth NNU tied the game with a solo home run in the top of the fifth. This time it was Lisa Sylvester with a solo-homer to even the score. MSUB answered in the bottom of the inning led by a Tracy walk. A wild pitch moved the speedy Tracy to second and Prince laced a single to put ‘Jackets on the corners. Dettling again came up in a big spot and delivered with a long single off of the right field fence. NNU turned a critical double play to end the inning and snuff out a Yellowjacket rally.
With MSU leading 5-4, the Nighthawks again responded with the long-ball. Orr reached on a single and Brittany Genuardi hit a two-run shot to center field to tilt the score in the NNU’s favor 6-5.
The Yellowjackets loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth after an Emily Martinez single, a Kelly walk and Barham reached on an error. Rae Young worked out of the trouble for the ‘Hawks as Orr made a good play on a ball that was lined down the first-base line off the bat of Tracy.
Game 2: MSU Billings 6, Northwest Nazarene 3
Clinging to GNAC tournament hopes the Yellowjackets again claimed the second game of the day against NNU. The Yellowjackets opened an early lead in the bottom of the first with a Fisher grand slam. Prince was the first to reach base after being hit by a pitch and Dettling followed up with a single. Cassinelli walked to load the bases and Fisher put four runs on the board with a drive to left-center field. Fisher made her first career start in left field as the ‘Jackets stacked the lineup in Game 2.
NNU scored two runs on errors in the top of the second to trim the lead 4-2 with Maddy Lincoln(12-13, 3.20 ERA) in the circle. The Nighthawks did record a hit in the inning. After the ‘Jackets were retired in order, NNU scored again in the third. After Williams and Orr reached on a single and walk respectively, Genuardi delivered an RBI single to make it 4-3.
In the bottom of the fifth, the ‘Jackets added a little more cushion to their lead. Kelly hit a single into left field and Bagnell reached on an error. Barham drove in her 14th run of the season on a single to extend the lead 5-3.
Lincoln remained consistent on the mound as she allowed just four hits through six innings. Kelly stoked her second home run of the day in the sixth to give the ‘Jackets a 6-3 advantage.
NNU started the seventh with a base runner after a hit-by-pitch awarded Cassidy Fifield first base. Williams followed with a single to bring the tying run to the plate. The next batter, Orr, looked to tie the game up with one swing as the first baseman drove a pitch deep to center field however, Barham made a leaping effort for the ball at the fence and robber the three-run homer. With the runner advancing on the near home run, a wild pitch plated the fourth run of the game for NNU. Lincoln struck out a batter and recorded a pop fly to Bagnell at shortstop to end the game.
The split makes the Yellowjackets the only GNAC team other than Western Washington to win more than one game against the Nighthawks this season.