(MSU Billings release)
COWLEY, Wyo. – Shaking off a sloppy defensive performance in Game 1 on Saturday, the Montana State University Billings baseball team rallied from a large deficit to claim Game 2 and split a Great Northwest Athletic Conference doubleheader against Central Washington University at Cowley Legion Field.
The Yellowjackets committed five errors in the opener, wasting a strong start by Steen Fredrickson in an 8-5 loss. Despite scoring six runs in the top of the first in Game 2, Central Washington couldn’t hold the lead as MSUB rallied to take the nightcap 10-8.
“The early game wasn’t pretty for us as we gave them too many opportunities, but the guys responded in Game 2,” said MSUB head coach Aaron Sutton. “When you keep extending innings the way that we did, there are a lot of guys in our lineup who can do what they did. Landon (Peterson) and Andrew (Schleusner) are two of our toughest guys, and they compete every day. It was great to see them go back-to-back there in the big inning in Game 2.”
Senior Landon Peterson caught both games of the twin bill, and delivered a go-ahead three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning to push the ‘Jackets to their win on the day. MSUB moved to 5-13 overall on the year, and stayed even in league play at 5-5. “We have a lot of trust in each other, and we know that even if we get down early we are going to be able to string a lot of hits together,” said Peterson, a fifth-year senior. “We needed a big hit so I was going to be aggressive early. I got a pitch I liked and met it out front.”
The Wildcats, who entered the day with just four home runs in their first 16 games of the year, hit three long balls including a pair of solo shots late in Game 1 that were key in the win. CWU moved to 9-8-1 overall and is now 6-4 in conference play with the split.
Game 1 – Central Washington 8, MSU Billings 5
Two errors by the ‘Jackets in the fourth and two more in the sixth allowed the Wildcats to score five times, as defensive miscues let MSUB down in the opener.
Aside from his own throwing error that opened the door for the three-run fourth inning, Fredrickson was solid with nine strikeouts and only one walk in seven full innings pitched. He threw 103 pitches and surrendered just three hits, and only one of the five runs he allowed was earned. “Steen’s always got great stuff, and he’s tough to hit,” Peterson said. “He is tough to catch, and so you know that’s going to be something that’s difficult for hitters to square up. We know we can rely on him going forward.”
Andrew Schleusner ripped a two-run double into the gap in left center to give MSUB a 2-0 lead in the second inning. The junior helped the ‘Jackets regain the lead with another RBI-double in the fourth, but the Wildcats took advantage of a misplayed ground ball and an errant throw in the sixth inning. Yi-an Pan and Michael Peter each had RBI-singles in the frame to make it 5-4.
Wyatt Setian scampered home on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh to make it a 5-5 game, but the Wildcats dealt the final blow. Mitch Lesmeister and Pan hit back-to-back solo homers off of MSUB reliever Jared Winslow in the top of the eighth, and Trevor Tripoli added an RBI-single for good measure in the top of the ninth.
Closer Jacob Forrester locked down his third save of the season, and kept his season-long scoreless inning and hitless streak intact with 1 1/3 no-hit frames to end the game. Tyler Hoefer took the no-decision after striking out six and giving up four runs on six hits in five innings. AJ Wood picked up his first win of the year by giving up just one run in 2 2/3 innings of work.
Chris Arpan went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, and scored two of the Yellowjackets’ five runs in the opener.
Game 2 – MSU Billings 10, Central Washington 8 (7 Innings)
Peterson’s crushing blow came with two outs in the fifth inning, on just the second pitch thrown by CWU reliever Josh Touhey. Schleusner set up the big at bat with an RBI-double that drove CWU starter Conner Stevenson from the game, and Peterson’s deep shot over the fence in right-center gave MSUB a 9-8 advantage.
The Wildcats pounced on MSUB starter Dylan Barkley for six runs in the first inning, as nine men came to the plate with three doubles and a home run by Jesse Unger in the inning. The redshirt freshman lefty settled down after that however, and earned his second straight victory by lasting five full innings, striking out four, and walking none.
CWU might have had even more runs in the first inning, if it weren’t for the defensive play of the day by MSUB centerfielder Jalen Garcia. Negotiating a warning track covered in three inches of snow, Garcia leapt above the wall and robbed Lesmeister of a two-run home run.
A quick response by the ‘Jacket hitters was key to the win, as MSUB got three runs back in the bottom of the first. Tyler Detloff led off with a base hit, before Arpan hit an RBI-double and Schleusner had a huge two-out, two-run base hit into the right-center gap.
Catcher Caetano Rochelle won an eight-pitch battle with Barkley and poked a two-out, bloop single into right field to score two more runs and make the score 8-3. That was all the offense CWU managed in the game however, and the Yellowjackets never gave up.
Caje Golden roped a two-run home run to right center in the fourth, bringing Peterson around to score with two outs. After Schleusner and Peterson came through in the fifth, Garcia added an insurance run with an RBI-single to left that scored Detloff from second.
Robert Ball greeted MSUB freshman Brooks Zimmer with a leadoff single in the sixth, but after that the 6-foot-7 righty mowed down the next six batters he faced to earn his second save of the year. “It’s huge for us having a freshman we can rely on,” said Peterson, who caught all 16 innings on Saturday. “He’s been big for us, and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by the moment. We are excited for him this year, and very excited for him going forward as a ‘Jacket.”
Five different Yellowjackets had multiple hits among MSUB’s 13 total in Game 2, and the ‘Jackets capitalized on almost all of their opportunities as they left just four runners on base. Tripoli and Hassell each had a pair of hits for the Wildcats in the nightcap, and Touhey took his first loss of the season on the mound.
THE BUZZ: Peterson was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…MSUB is now 49-49 all-time against CWU and is 1-2 in neutral-site contests…the home run was the fourth of Peterson’s career…Golden’s home run was the 10th of his career.
NEXT UP: The series concludes on Sunday with another doubleheader scheduled to start at noon.