BILLINGS, MT – Reigning Great Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Week Adam Eskil launched an eighth-inning grand slam to the deepest part of Dehler Park on Saturday afternoon, highlighting a 13-10 win for Saint Martin’s University over host Montana State University Billings.
The Saints scored 13 runs on 13 hits in the series finale, including nine runs total in the seventh and eighth innings to come back and even the four-game series. SMU improved to 10-34 with the win, and is now 9-27 in GNAC play.
“This was a tough day for us,” said MSUB head coach Aaron Sutton. “We couldn’t stop the bleeding late, and gave them too many opportunities at the plate.”
The Yellowjackets took a 5-3 advantage into the top of the seventh inning, but couldn’t hold off the Saints’ late offensive attack. MSUB slipped to 28-14 with the loss, and is 27-9 in GNAC play remaining one win away from clinching the regular-season title and the No. 1 spot into the upcoming GNAC Championships.
Aaron Shoup grinded out four innings of relief to earn the win for SMU, despite surrendering five runs on seven hits. Three of those runs came in the bottom of the ninth inning, as Colton Cosner plated Andrew Schleusner with a triple and Wyatt Setian and Jalen Garcia followed with run-scoring hits. The final rally stopped there however, as the tying run was left in the on-deck circle.
Ryan Myers had another big day for the ‘Jackets, helping his team respond with a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the eighth inning. Overall the senior reached base in 4 of 6 plate appearances, driving his GNAC-leading on-base percentage up to .560.
MSUB nearly had a chance to make it a bigger inning, but SMU centerfielder Steven Sordahl came through with one of the top defensive plays of the series to start the eighth. Cosner was robbed of a triple to lead off the frame, when Sordahl sprinted into the deep left-center gap and leapt at the wall to catch the junior’s long fly ball. Though the ‘Jackets picked up the two runs on the hit by Myers, the big defensive play helped SMU start the inning with an out instead of a hit.
Jared Winslow started and was in line for the victory, after striking out five and giving up three runs on five hits in six innings for a quality start. The ‘Jackets used six different pitchers after that however, five of which gave up at least one run as the Saints rallied late to win it.
SMU was the first team to score in every game of the series, achieving that feat after a second-inning solo home run by Colton Peha to right field. The lead switched hands three times quickly over the next two innings, with MSUB scoring twice in the third and adding three more in the fourth. A two-run double by Setain followed by an RBI-double by Garcia counteracted a Kahi Hirano-two-run double in the top of the fourth, and supplied MSUB with the two-run advantage.
Peha came through again with a two-run double in the seventh, and Ryan Colvin punched a two-out, two-run base hit up the middle to make it an 8-5 ballgame. Eskil’s grand slam came with two outs as well, as he stunned the ‘Jackets and made it a 12-5 ballgame.
Garrison Ritter started for SMU, allowing five runs on six hits in four innings pitched. Luke Hare pitched a scoreless fifth frame before giving way to Shoup to throw the rest of the way.
The Saints left eight runners on in the game while the ‘Jackets stranded 11, and each team committed an error defensively.
“We are looking forward to getting back out there next week to honor the seniors, who have given so much to the program,” Sutton said on the upcoming Senior Day next Friday.
THE BUZZ: Garcia finished the game 4-for-6 with two doubles, a triple, and four RBIs, and was tabbed the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…MSUB is now 40-46 all-time against SMU and is 18-24 in home games…Eskil’s grand slam was the second of the series for SMU, after Bryant Nakagawa hit one in Game 2 of the series on Friday.
AHEAD: The regular season concludes next week with a four-game home series against Central Washington University. Doubleheaders are scheduled for May 3-4 and will begin at 1 p.m. Live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available for all four games online through the MSUB Stretch Internet portal here.