(MSUB Athletics release)
NAMPA, Idaho – Daniel Cipriano homered twice, Conner Linebarger tied the school record for hits in a game, and Dylan Barkley earned his first career win as the Montana State University Billings baseball team swept Northwest Nazarene University in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference doubleheader Friday evening at Vail Baseball Field.
MSUB’s offense erupted for 16 hits in the opener, as the Yellowjackets ran away with a 13-6 victory. Game 1 marked the third time in school history an MSUB team has totaled five home runs in one game, with both other occurrences taking place during the 2018 season. It was also the first time that five different players have logged a home run in a single game, as in each of the prior two games one player had a pair of home runs.
The ‘Jackets then relied on six stellar innings by Barkley in the nightcap, and put together a comprehensive performance to earn a 4-1 victory. MSUB has won three straight games, and is now 3-11 overall and 3-3 in conference play. “Our pitching was very good today,” said MSUB head coach Aaron Sutton. “Steen (Fredrickson) and Dylan had quality starts for us, and (Jared) Winslow and (Hunter) Roubidoux were electric out of the ‘pen. Offensively a lot of guys strung good at-bats together. We will get back to work tomorrow as a club, and we are looking to come out and play good baseball again.”
NNU fell to 7-7 overall with the losses, and is now 3-3 in conference play as well. Kyle Redford went 4-for-8 in the doubleheader, and was the only Nighthawk to record multiple hits in a game.
Cipriano has now homered in four consecutive games, tying the second-longest streak in MSUB history. Kaleo Johnson had homers in six straight games from May 3-10, 2018, with seven total long balls in that stretch. Hall of famer Matt Schoonover had a single home run in four straight games from April 13-14, 2007.
Linebarger went 5-for-5 in Game 1, becoming the 11th man in Yellowjacket history to match the single-game record for base hits.
Game 1 – MSU Billings 13, Northwest Nazarene 6
Steen Fredrickson earned his first victory of the 2019 season, as he struck out six and walked two while giving up two runs on four hits in five innings of work. Fellow senior Jared Winslow picked him up by earning his first save of the year, as he put up zeroes over the final 2 1/3 innings pitched.
Linebarger set the tone in the top of the first inning, as he drilled his first home run of the year over the fence in center field to make it 1-0. The Nighthawks responded in the bottom of the frame however, taking advantage of an RBI-single by Jesse Hilyard and a wild pitch to take a 2-1 lead.
Fredrickson limited the damage by striking out the final two hitters of the inning, and settled into a groove after that. A fielding error in the second and a hit batter in the third set the tone for what wound up being a quiet rest of the game for NNU, and meanwhile the Yellowjacket offense continued to add on.
Tyler Detloff came through with a three-run home run to center in the second, and Brandon Koszuth made it a 5-2 game with an RBI-ground out in the third. Wyatt Setian kicked off the biggest rally of the game in the fourth, leading off the frame with a solo home run. Cipriano, the reigning GNAC and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association West Region Player of the Week, drilled his fifth home run of the year over the fence, and Chris Arpan connected on a solo shot in the next at-bat to make it a 9-2 ballgame.
NNU made some noise in the sixth inning, as back-to-back doubles by Shawn Grandmont and Michael Hults, along with an error, allowed three runs to cross the plate.
MSUB manufactured a scoring opportunity with two outs in the seventh, when Linebarger’s fifth hit of the game helped load the bases. Freshman pinch hitter Ryan Roche was struck out by Bryan Black however, as the NNU righty stranded the bases full and kept the score at 9-5.
Winslow’s defense picked him up to end the eighth inning, as Roche, Linebarger, and Chazz Ishikawa went around the horn for a 5-4-3 double play. The senior completed his second career save, as he notched three strikeouts in the bottom of the ninth to seal the win.
Linebarger had a chance at the outright hits record, but he was hit by a pitch in his sixth plate appearance in the top of the ninth inning.
Game 2 – MSU Billings 4, Northwest Nazarene 1 (7 Innings)
Barkley was nearly unhittable en route to his first collegiate win, as he punched out eight batters while giving up two walks and four hits in six shutout frames on the mound. Hunter Roubidoux finished off the win by pitching the seventh, as the duo out-dueled a pair of quality NNU arms.
Ben Johnson took a tough loss despite striking out seven and giving up just two runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings of work. Nick Irwin pitched the final 1 1/3 innings, allowing two more runs on Cipriano’s second homer of the day.
With the Yellowjackets guarding a 2-0 lead and two outs in the top of the seventh inning, Cipriano demolished a towering two-run home run to left field to instantly double the advantage. It was a big swing in an otherwise quiet game offensively, as MSUB managed just six hits in its second game of the day.
Matt Dillon came through with an RBI-single in the top of the first inning, but Johnson limited the damage and stranded two baserunners to end the frame.
Barkley started his evening by striking out three batters in the first inning, but had his work cut out for him at different points in the game. The redshirt freshman lefty maneuvered out of a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the second, garnering three straight pop ups to keep the game at 1-0.
NNU came close to scoring again in the third, as it moved runners to second and third with just one out. Barkley buckled down however, with a big strikeout and an ensuing fly out to end the threat. He sprung into action after that, retiring eight in-a-row and 11 of the final 12 batters he faced before handing the game off to Roubidoux.
Caje Golden gave MSUB an insurance run in the top of the sixth, when he punched a two-out, RBI-single into left field to bring Dillon home. Dillon and Golden each had a pair of hits in Game 2, while Linebarger was 1-for-3 with two runs scored.
THE BUZZ: Linebarger was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…Fredrickson now has 138 career strikeouts, which is fourth-most in MSUB history…he needs six more to pass Brian Howe at No. 3 on the list…with the win, Fredrickson moved to No. 2 in school history with 13 in his career, tying Winslow’s mark…MSUB is now 52-47 all-time against NNU and is 28-23 in road games…the last player to have five hits in a game was Dillon, who achieved that mark on March 23, 2018 at Northwest Nazarene…MSUB’s other five-homer games were on May 10, 2018 against Western Oregon and on March 31, 2018 at Central Washington…Winslow’s other career save also came in Nampa, when he tossed the final 2 2/3 innings at NNU in a 3-2 win on March 11, 2016.
NEXT UP: The series wraps up on Saturday with another 9-inning/7-inning doubleheader on the schedule. First pitch is at noon, and live video and live statistics will be available through the MSUB Stretch Internet portal online.