(MSUB Athletics release)
LACEY, Wash. – Jarrod Molnaa tossed a three-hit shutout and Keven Mackintosh followed with a complete game as the Montana State University Billings baseball team completed a series sweep of Great Northwest Athletic Conference opponent Saint Martin’s University with two wins Sunday at the SMU Baseball Field.
Molnaa threw the first 9-inning shutout in the GNAC this season and the first shutout by an MSUB pitcher since the 2015 season, as he struck out nine Saints in the Yellowjackets’ 6-0 Game 1 triumph. Mackintosh followed with eight punch outs in a complete game of his own, as MSUB rolled to a 6-1 win in the nightcap to sweep the series.
“We just put an emphasis on being in the zone, not giving up free bases, and making them beat us,” Molnaa commented after his best outing of the year. “We have a staff full of guys who are used to being the big dogs, and I think that helps every other guy down the line.”
“It really goes back to those guys’ process over the last two weeks and what they have been doing in practice,” MSUB head coach Aaron Sutton commented on his two starting pitchers on Sunday. “They pounded the zone and had three pitches for strikes. Coach (Grant) Hamilton called two great games, and they executed to perfection.”
The Yellowjackets (11-13, 11-5 GNAC) made it seven straight wins, three straight series victories, and 11 wins in their last 13 games overall. MSUB is in first place in the GNAC standings with the midway point in the 2019 regular season coming next weekend. “We are just trying to keep focused on the process,” said Sutton. “We are going to enjoy a day off tomorrow and get back to work on Tuesday, and there are still a lot of things that we need to improve on as a club.”
Saint Martin’s dropped to 9-16 overall and is now 5-11 in league play with the losses, and the home team managed just eight total hits on the final day of the series.
Game 1 – MSU Billings 6, Saint Martin’s 0
Molnaa threw 109 pitches to get through his nine stellar frames, the first four of which he worked through without surrendering a baserunner. Colton Peha led off the bottom of the fifth inning to break Molnaa’s game-opening string of 12 straight batters retired, and a walk to Aaron Renaud and a single by Austin Feist loaded the bases with no outs.
The Yellowjacket senior right-hander navigated out of the jam with back-to-back strikeouts and a ground out to third, as he stranded the bases full in what wound up being the Saints’ best chance to score in the ballgame.
After that, Molnaa retired 12 of the final 13 batters that he faced as SMU had just one baserunner the rest of the game. Molnaa issued just one walk, with an even balance of nine fly outs and nine ground outs to go with his season-high nine strikeouts.
Wyatt Setian and Jalen Garcia had back-to-back singles off SMU starter Clark Streby to start the game, and Matt Dillon plated the first run of the day with a sacrifice fly to left. That was it for the MSUB offense over the first five frames however, as Streby kept pace with Molnaa in a 1-0 game going into the sixth.
One-out singles by Dillon, Andrew Schleusner, and Landon Peterson loaded the bases, and Caje Golden delivered the biggest hit of the day with a three-run double to deep left field that made it a 4-0 ballgame. “I was just going in looking for a first-pitch fastball, and that’s exactly what I got,” Golden said after the doubleheader. “We needed to add on because it was an intense game, but give all the credit to our pitchers this weekend. They really made it easy for us to go out there and swing it.”
It was smooth sailing after that, as RBIs from Jalen Garcia in the eighth and Golden in the ninth gave MSUB two more runs to push the game out of reach.
Streby took the tough loss, striking out five and walking one while giving up four runs on nine hits in six full innings of work. Garrison Ritter logged 2 2/3 innings of relief, with four strikeouts and three walks.
Garcia finished the first game 3-for-4 at the plate, while Golden reached a career high with four RBIs.
Game 2 – MSU Billings 6, Saint Martin’s 1 (7 Innings)
Coming off a season-high 12 strikeouts last week, Mackintosh delivered his first complete game of the season and, like Molnaa, took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. The left-hander gave up just one run on five hits, while needing just 82 pitches to get through the seven-inning affair and seal the series sweep.
In a nearly identical scenario to Game 1, Setian and Garcia had back-to-back singles and the former scored on a sacrifice fly to once again spot MSUB a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.
SMU starter Benjamin Wadowski shook off the early trouble, and put up zeroes over the next two frames to keep the score at 1-0. The left-hander ran into trouble in the top of the fourth however, when the ‘Jackets scored four times in what proved to be the decisive inning in the game.
Schleusner had an RBI-single, the ‘Jackets plated a second run on a throwing error, and Setian capped off the big frame with a two-run base hit into center field that made it a 5-0 ballgame.
Cody Chavis broke up Mackintosh’s no-hit bid with a one-out single in the fifth, and the Saints scored their first and only run of the day in the next inning when Dakota Hill ripped a base hit into center field to bring home Austin Feist.
That came after Garcia roped an RBI-double into the left center gap in the top of the sixth for MSUB’s final run of the day, and it was more than enough to back Mackintosh’s stellar outing. Garcia also swiped third base in the sixth, marking his third steal of the game and fifth of the doubleheader.
Setian and Garcia each had three hits in the series finale, and MSUB left six runners on base in Game 2.
Mickey Walker pitched an inning of relief in Game 2, and picked up his 137th career strikeout to move two away from Josh Moss’s SMU career record of 139.
THE BUZZ: Molnaa was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…MSUB is now 44-46 all-time against SMU and is 23-21 in road games…the last MSUB pitcher to throw a shutout was Tanner Johnson, who did it on April 25, 2015 at home against Northwest Nazarene…Johnson also allowed just three hits, and had 10 strikeouts in the 9-inning game…Molnaa’s was the fourth overall shutout by a GNAC pitcher this season, but all four previous occurrences came in 7-inning affairs…it was the 18th shutout in MSUB history…Garcia now has 42 career stolen bases, which is tied for sixth-most in GNAC history…Game 2 Sunday marked Garcia’s first-ever three-steal game…Golden had achieved his previous career high of three RBIs in a game on five different occasions…Sunday marked MSUB’s first four-game GNAC sweep since taking four from Concordia on April 20-21, 2018 at Dehler Park in Billings.
NEXT UP: The Yellowjackets head south for a four-game series at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon, next weekend. Doubleheaders are scheduled for noon Pacific time on Friday and Saturday, and live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available for all four games through the MSUB Stretch Internet portal online.