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MSU Billings rides 7-game win streak into Concordia series

Posted at 8:22 PM, Mar 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-27 22:22:06-04

(MSUB Athletics release)

PORTLAND, Ore. – Three straight Great Northwest Athletic Conference series wins have vaulted the Montana State University Billings baseball team into first place, and the Yellowjackets look to continue the momentum of their current seven-game winning streak this weekend at Concordia University.

“It is always a battle coming over to play Concordia,” MSUB head coach Aaron Sutton said. “They are a well-coached team that can beat you in multiple ways. Our guys are going to have to play clean baseball and be ready for a dogfight headed into Friday’s Game 1 matchup.”

MSUB (11-13, 11-5 GNAC) is coming off a four-game sweep at Saint Martin’s University last weekend and has won 11 of its last 13 games after starting the year 0-11. Doubleheaders against the Cavaliers are scheduled for noon on Friday and Saturday at Porter Park, and live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available through the MSUB Stretch Internet portal online here.

“Wins are always great, but the process and preparation these guys have been putting in over the last couple of weeks has been the real enjoyment for the club,” said Sutton. “Trusting each other and just trying to play good baseball has been key, and we still have a long ways to go as a group. We expect the intensity and focus to be high this week in practice.”

SUTTON JOINS GNAC INSIDER: Coach Sutton joined GNAC Insider on Tuesday evening, to discuss his team’s recent success and ascent up the conference standings after a tough non-conference schedule. Listen to the full interview online here.

‘JACKETS BACK IN WEST-REGION TOP-10: After slipping out of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association west region top-10 rankings with their slow start to the year, the Yellowjackets reappeared in the latest regional rankings released Monday. MSUB received points last week, and clocked in at No. 10 in the region this week after the impressive performance against Saint Martin’s.

MOLNAA SINGLED OUT IN GNAC, WEST REGION: Senior right-hander Jarrod Molnaa pitched the first nine-inning shutout in the GNAC this season, and was named both the conference and NCBWA West Region Pitcher of the Week. Molnaa scattered just three hits over his nine innings of work, while matching his season high with nine strikeouts and issuing a season-low one walk. It is the second-straight week the regional pitcher of the week has come from MSUB, as Molnaa followed Brooks Zimmer’s award after his three saves against Central Washington.

BEST STAFF EFFORT EVER? The Yellowjackets’ sweep of Saint Martin’s had to do with what was arguably the best performance by an MSUB pitching staff in a four-game series in program history. Overall it was the 10th four-game series sweep for MSUB’s baseball team since the sport was reintroduced during the 2006 season. Among those 10 sweeps, last weekend’s pitching staff had the lowest WHIP (0.64), opponents’ batting average (.157), fewest walks allowed (3), fewest extra-base hits allowed (1), fewest hits allowed (18), most strikeouts (41), and the highest strikeout-to-walk ratio (13.67). The five total runs allowed and four earned runs were each the second fewest allowed by an MSUB staff during any four-game series in school history, and the staff ERA of 1.09 was also the second best. The only series in school history to eclipse the ERA and runs allowed numbers was a four-game sweep of Saint Martin’s on May 1-2, 2015 in which MSUB allowed just two runs and one earned run in 32 innings (0.28 ERA).

“It was a big weekend by our pitching staff,” Sutton said. “They were challenged with facing a tough matchup in SMU, and competed at a very high level. They kept it simple to the process, and allowed our offense to come up with some big hits when we needed it the most.”

FREDRICKSON CRACKS INTO GNAC TOP-20: Senior right-hander Steen Fredrickson moved to No. 20 in GNAC history in career strikeouts, as he posted a career-high 11 on Saturday and now has 158. That total ranks No. 3 in MSUB history, and his 41 strikeouts are tied for third most in the GNAC this season. Fredrickson is also No. 3 in the league with 36 1/3 innings pitched, and his ERA of 3.47 is fifth-best.

MACKINTOSH POSTS ANOTHER STRONG OUTING: A week after punching out a season-high 12 batters in a win over Central Washington, junior left-hander Keven Mackintosh delivered his first complete game of the year in a 6-1 win over Saint Martin’s. Mackintosh struck out eight and walked none, needing just 82 pitches to complete seven full frames in the win over the Saints. Left-handed hitters are batting just .143 off Mackintosh this year, which is the second-best mark in the GNAC.

BARKLEY MATCHES SEASON HIGH: Redshirt freshman left-hander Dylan Barkley matched his season high with six full innings pitched in his start last week, and struck out six Saints while walking none. Barkley ranks fifth on the team with a 5.90 ERA, and has struck out 26 batters in 29 innings pitched.

ZIMMER NOTCHES FIFTH SAVE: True freshman Brooks Zimmer added to his GNAC-leading saves total last week, as he notched his fifth of the season in the Yellowjackets’ Game 1 win. Zimmer has struck out 18 batters in 16 1/3 innings pitched on the year, while carrying an ERA of 2.76 and a WHIP of 1.12. The opposition is batting just .207 off the righty, who is now two saves away from tying Brian Howe’s MSUB single-season record of seven.

MUSKAT NAILS DOWN SECOND SAVE: Junior left-hander Sam Muskat made quick work of the Saints in his appearance last week, striking out all three batters he faced to record his second career save.

GARCIA GETTING BACK INTO THE SWING OF THINGS: Senior Jalen Garcia missed the majority of seven games with an injury, and last week began to get back into his comfort zone at the plate. He went 6-for-8 in the finale on Sunday, and had eight total hits in the four games at SMU. Garcia also stole six bases in the series, including five on Sunday and a career-high three in the series finale.

With eight steals on the season, Garcia is tied for second in the GNAC. He is also up to 42 steals in his career, which is tied for the sixth-highest total in GNAC history. Garcia is second on the team with a .342 batting average, while reaching base at a clip of .388 and slugging .534.

SETIAN STAYS HOT AT TOP: Sophomore shortstop Wyatt Setian had another productive series in the leadoff spot in MSUB’s lineup, going 7-for-17 and scoring three runs. Setian ranks third on the team with a .326 batting average, and his eight doubles are second most on the squad. He is also reaching base at a clip of .376, and carries an eight-game hitting streak into this weekend’s series at Concordia.

Concordia University Cavaliers
Friday, March 29 – 12 PM DOUBLEHEADER – Porter Park
Saturday, March 30 – 12 PM DOUBLEHEADER – Porter Park
2019 Record: 9-15, 7-9 GNAC
Head Coach: Rob Vance, 20th season
2018 Record: 20-32, 19-21 GNAC (4th place)

The Cavaliers took 3 of 4 from Central Washington at home last week, keeping themselves in the thick of the early GNAC standings in a tie for fourth place. After losing the opener 5-3 in 12 innings, the ‘Cavs rallied to win the next three and enter this weekend’s series with some momentum.

Eddie Vasquez is CU’s leading hitter at .306 this season, and he is second on the team with a .343 on-base percentage. Liam Knowles has been the top power hitter for CU so far, with team highs of six doubles and 17 RBIs, and a batting average of .267. Damon Peters will be a threat in the lineup as well, as he leads the GNAC with four triples and also has four stolen bases while slugging at .451.

The Cavaliers are a lackluster offensive team, with a team batting average of just .222 and only three home runs in 25 games this season. CU averages a GNAC-low 3.4 runs per game.

On the mound, Jeffrey Lusink is CU’s top starter with a 3.98 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings pitched. Kaleb Jones has started seven times this year and has a 4.78 ERA in 37 2/3 innings, and Trevor Huddleston has struck out 28 batters in 24 1/3 innings over four starts. CU has utilized Dylan Diaz and Andrew Marriott in late innings, with the former striking out 13 and yet to allow an earned run in 12 innings pitched.

As a staff CU ranks fifth in the league with a team ERA of 5.74 and 166 strikeouts, and has issued a league-high 111 walks for an average of 5.02 per nine innings.

The Series: MSUB is 20-8 all-time against CU and is 10-4 in road games against the Cavaliers. MSUB has won five in-a-row and 11 of the last 12 games played between the teams.

Last Time Out: MSUB won eight of the nine games during the 2018 season, including a 21-11 win at the GNAC Championships last May. The ‘Jackets took 3 of 4 games last March when the teams met at Porter Park.