(MSU Billings release)
COWLEY, Wyo. – Keven Mackintosh struck out 12 batters to highlight a big day by the Montana State University Billings baseball pitching staff, and the Yellowjackets swept Central Washington University in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference doubleheader at Cowley Legion Field on Sunday.
Mackintosh earned the victory in MSUB’s narrow 2-1 Game 2 triumph, which completed Sunday’s sweep and a 3-1 series win for the ‘Jackets over the weekend. Jarrod Molnaa went 6 1/3 strong innings in the Game 1 start, and the ‘Jackets posted a 5-3 victory in the early game.
Brooks Zimmer earned saves in each game on Sunday, giving him three total on the weekend and four on the season. Ryan Roche collected his first collegiate hit with a solo home run in Game 1, and Wyatt Setian’s two-run homer in Game 2 proved to be the winning swing of the bat.
“I just trusted my stuff, and trusted what I was working on all week,” Mackintosh said after the game. “I was proud of my team, and they put in a lot of work. We just have to keep grinding games out.”
MSUB improved to 7-13 with the wins, and is now 7-5 in conference play to move into second place. “Our pitching staff was outstanding today, and each guy we passed the rock to came in and did his job,” said MSUB head coach Aaron Sutton. “Molnaa and Mackintosh really set the tone for us, and their guys matched us pitch-for-pitch. It boiled down to our guys making some quality pitches when they needed to.”
Central Washington fell to 9-10-1 overall and is now 6-6 after three weekends of league play.
Game 1 – MSU Billings 5, Central Washington 3
Molnaa battled through a difficult first inning, which included a pair of walks, a hit batter, and a fielding error that allowed CWU to score a pair of runs. The Wildcats plated one more in the second to go ahead 3-0, but didn’t score after that as Molnaa settled into a groove.
The right-hander earned his first win of the year, striking out eight and walking three while scattering four hits and throwing 120 pitches. Hunter Roubidoux took the ball from Molnaa and finished the seventh, and Zimmer allowed just one baserunner over the final two frames to close the door.
James Brooks was similarly effective on the mound for CWU, as he struck out nine and walked just one while giving up four runs on six hits in six innings. Rhyse Frey was effective with a pair of strikeouts and no hits allowed in his inning of work.
Roche led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a drive that cleared the fence in left field and got MSUB on the board for the first time Sunday. “I knew that I didn’t have a hit yet,” Roche said on entering the day with just eight previous at-bats in his collegiate career. “I was ecstatic that I was able to get my team on the board.”
Setian and Daniel Cipriano followed with doubles, and the latter came home on a wild pitch as the ‘Jackets pulled themselves even. Tyler Detloff smashed a one-out triple into the gap in right-center in the sixth, and gave MSUB its first lead of the day as he also scored on a wild pitch to make it a 4-3 game.
Chris Arpan came through with a big-time hit to add another run in the seventh, giving the ‘Jackets a cushion in the late innings. With two outs and Setian on third base, Arpan worked the count full and ripped the ninth pitch off reliever JJ Asinas into right field to make it a 5-3 game.
Zimmer took the hill in the eighth, and Andrew Schleusner helped him erase a one-out walk as he cut down Colton Bunt at second for an inning-ending strike-out, throw-out double play.
Setian finished 3-for-5 with two runs scored to lead MSUB at the plate, while Mitch Lesmeister had two of CWU’s four hits in the game.
Game 2 – MSU Billings 2, Central Washington 1 (7 Innings)
The Wildcats pushed the ‘Jackets to the limit, loading the bases with two outs in the top of the seventh inning. But Zimmer buckled down and struck out Justin Hampson, who was CWU’s best offensive player on the weekend, to end the series.
Hampson had already hit a solo home run in the top of the fourth inning, which proved to be the only run of the finale for the Wildcats. Zimmer shook off a pair of walks however, and mowed down Hampson on three pitches to end the day.
Mackintosh was stellar for 6 2/3 innings of work, as he threw 104 pitches and gave up just three hits with no walks. His curveball baffled Wildcat hitters all game long, as Schleusner had five assists to Cipriano at first base on swinging strikeouts that wound up in the dirt. “We had a really good sync, especially with curveballs down in the zone, and I knew he was going to block the ball,” Mackintosh commented on Schleusner’s work behind the plate.
While the junior lefty was on his game, so was CWU starter Hunter French who took the loss despite going the distance. French punched out eight Yellowjackets and walked just one, as he gave up five hits and also threw 104 pitches.
The lone blemish off French, like Mackintosh, was a long ball, as Setian launched a no-doubter to left in the third that also brought home Roche. The ‘Jackets had a chance to add on in the fourth, after a base hit by Schleusner and a walk drawn by Detloff. But French finished the frame with consecutive strikeouts, and kicked off a string of eight straight batters retired to finish his tough-luck outing.
THE BUZZ: Mackintosh was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…Mackintosh’s strikeout total was tied for the fourth most in MSUB single-game history…it was the most strikeouts by a Yellowjacket pitcher since Cody Cooper reached 12 on April 8, 2017 at Northwest Nazarene…MSUB is now 51-49 all-time against CWU and is 3-2 in neutral-site contests…the home run was the third of the year for Setian and the seventh of his career.
AHEAD: The Yellowjackets are on the road the next two weeks, for two more conference series. MSUB plays at Saint Martin’s University on March 23-24, with doubleheaders scheduled for noon Pacific time each day.