BILLINGS – Offensive juggernaut doesn’t begin to describe this season’s MSU Billings baseball team.
MSUB (28-14, 27-9) closes the regular season with a pair of doubleheaders against Central Washington Thursday (1 p.m.) and Friday (noon) at Dehler Park. One win clinches the outright conference championship, and it should with the gaudy numbers MSUB has put up.
The Yellowjackets score more than eight runs per game and lead the GNAC in every offensive category, including 55 home runs. Suffice to say, they put on a show.
“We kind of have a rule of thumb: Don’t watch it when it goes out when we’re taking BP (batting practice),” said manager Aaron Sutton during a recent pregame interview. “But sometimes they send some, and you’re kind of just waiting to see what they’re going to do next when they step up to the plate during games.”
Enter MSUB’s Bash Brothers: Ryan Myers and Kaleo Johnson. The two Californians rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the conference home run race and it’s not hard to see why.
“A lot of teams we play ask us what do we do during practice. ‘Do you guys just hit home runs?’ We just kind of laugh and say, ‘Yeah,'” said Myers. “We really practice how we play.”
The senior leads the GNAC with 12 long balls, already one more than he hit last year. But Johnson, who transferred to MSUB in January, is hot on his heels.
“I’m coming to pass him with these next two series,” smiled Johnson. “That’s been a goal since I got here, was to hit more than him.”
Myers is well aware.
“I tell everyone that Kaleo is always going to one-up me,” he said. “If he passes me, I hope he does. I know he probably will.”
Myers earned the Dehler Park distance record with a shot over the batter’s eye in center field last season. But even he admits Johnson’s power might be unmatched.
“If he’s ever struggling, which is very, very rare, I tell him to hit the ball as hard as he can, and hopefully that tweaks something in his brain and he’ll do what he does,” said Myers.
That’ll make any manager cringe. But the thing is, it’s working. Myers and Johnson also lead the conference in batting average at nearly .400.
“I’ve never really been much of an average hitter, but this year I really wanted to take a lot more pride in that,” Myers said. “Not just scoring guys off home runs, but scoring guys off singles and doubles. With him always one-upping me, I’ve got to beat him in something.”
“Friendly competition is great,” said Sutton. “We talk about competition being good for everything, so those two obviously playing together at a junior college, and then coming into here and getting after it together, it’s a lot of fun. They joke around in the dugout and it keeps things light definitely for the team.”
Until they get in the cage. There’s nothing light about that.