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MSU Billings splits, Etheridge deals program’s first no-hitter

Posted at 9:44 AM, Mar 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-09 14:37:35-05

(MSUB Athletics release)

SEATTLE – Alyssa Etheridge authored the first no-hitter in Montana State University Billings softball history, highlighting a doubleheader split against Saint Martin’s University in neutral-site Great Northwest Athletic Conference play at Francis F. Logan Field.

The true freshman from Grants Pass, Oregon, struck out five batters, while walking seven and allowing one unearned run on an error in the 8-1 Game 2 win on Friday. “We talked a lot about confidence this week, and we have worked so hard this preseason to have confidence out there,” Etheridge said after the game. “We all have the ability to do that, and I just went out trying not to be timid. I knew in the back of my mind, I was out there for a reason.”

It was the 26th no-hitter in GNAC history and the third in the conference this season. MSUB has had 18 one-hitters, including 16 individual efforts and a pair of combined one-hitters. Maddy Lincoln tossed the most recent one-hitter on February 2, 2018 in a 14-0, 5-inning win over Mary. “During the game I had no idea, just went pitch by pitch, inning by inning,” said Etheridge, on the first no-hitter of her softball career. “It’s awesome, and I was in shock when I found out. It makes me want to work harder and set even more records in the four years I am here.”

The historic win came after a 3-2 loss in Game 1, as the Saints narrowly edged the ‘Jackets to set up the doubleheader split. SMU moved to 7-7 overall and 1-1 in conference play, while MSUB is now 7-12 overall and 1-5 in league action.

“Alyssa had a great outing throwing the no-hitter in Game 2,” said MSUB head coach Jessica Rayman. “It was awesome to see her throw like that. I think a large part in her consistency in that game was due to (catcher) Maddie Kelly. She has been a great leader for our pitching staff, helping make sure they stay within themselves.”

The Yellowjackets piled up 14 hits in the nightcap, including a pair of doubles off the bat of Kelsee Bushell. “Our offense did a great job in Game 2,” Rayman said. “We make it a goal to win every inning and to come out and score in five innings of the second game was awesome. Everyone was stepping up in whatever situation they were in. Now we just have to carry this on tomorrow and continue to grow.”

Brittanee Fisher finished the day 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs, and Rylan Austin was 4-for-8 at the plate.

“I am very proud of the way the team played today,” said Rayman. “As the day went on we continued to get stronger. Game 1 was close, but we fell short of just a few timely hits. Our pitching staff threw well for us today.”

Game 1 – Saint Martin’s 3, MSU Billings 2

Allie Hughes gave MSUB a 1-0 lead with an RBI-single in the third, and Cailee Morgan drove in a run with a double in the fourth. But that was all the offense MSUB could muster against the combination of Lauren Maley and Brandi Schoessler. The latter collected the win by pitching 4 1/3 innings of relief, and giving up just one run on two hits.

The Yellowjackets squandered a stellar effort by Lincoln, who struck out three and gave up three runs on seven hits while pitching the complete game.

Lauren Diuco had an RBI-groundout in the third, and an error by the ‘Jackets allowed a second run to cross the plate. That proved crucial on the final score line, as Emily Thornton’s ensuing RBI-double in the fourth went down as the game-winning swing of the bat.

Thornton and Emery Norwood each had a pair of hits for the Saints in the opener, while Kylee Vanderbout scored two of the team’s three runs.

Game 2 – MSU Billings 8, Saint Martin’s 1

The Yellowjackets struck first on Morgan’s RBI-single in the top of the third, but SMU managed to even the score without the aid of a base hit. An error followed by three walks in the bottom of the third inning made it a 1-1 ballgame, but it was the only mishap of the day by an otherwise dominant Etheridge.

MSUB got to work at the plate after that, scoring two runs each in the fourth, fifth, and six frames. Kelly had a two-run double in the fourth, Fisher plated a pair with a double in the fifth, and Georgiabelle Benning picked up a pair of RBIs in the sixth to make the score 7-1. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Fisher in the seventh added a final run for good measure, but by then Etheridge had all the run support she needed.

The Saints loaded the bases again in the bottom of the fifth, but Etheridge got out of trouble with a ground ball to keep the no-hitter intact. She retired the next six batters over the final two innings, finishing off the masterpiece with a fly out to Austin in right field.

Six different Yellowjackets had multiple hits in the nightcap, and the top three hitters in the order went 6-for-11 with three runs scored. Fisher notched three RBIs, and the ‘Jackets struck out just twice while leaving just three runners on base.

Jessica O’Toole started and gave up only one hit over the first two innings, before three Saints relievers combined to finish the game. Maley took the loss, giving up three runs on three hits with a pair of strikeouts and a walk in 1 2/3 innings.

Kylie Lopez drew a pair of walks and drove in the only run of the game for SMU, which left a total of seven runners on base.

THE BUZZ: Etheridge was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…MSUB is now 37-31 all-time against Saint Martin’s…the last player to throw a no-hitter in the GNAC was Western Washington University’s Makinlee Sellevold, who did it last Saturday in a 10-0, five-inning win over MSUB in Bellingham, Washington.

NEXT UP: The series concludes on Saturday, with another doubleheader scheduled for noon Pacific time/1 p.m. Mountain.