(MSUB Athletics release)
PORTLAND, Ore. – Wyatt Setian hit the first pitch of Friday’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference doubleheader over the left-field fence at Porter Park and the Montana State University Billings baseball team never looked back in a pair of victories over host Concordia University.
The Yellowjackets (13-13, 13-5 GNAC) won their ninth straight game to break the school record for longest winning streak, after taking the opener 14-6 and holding on for a 3-2 win in the nightcap. “This is a tough hitter’s park, and today is just a testament to the work the hitters did in practice this week,” said MSUB head coach Aaron Sutton. “We had to scratch out some runs in Game 2, and the hitters came through when we needed them to.”
Jalen Garcia, Landon Peterson, Daniel Cipriano, and Brandon Koszuth each also homered in Game 1, as the ‘Jackets tied the school record for long balls (5) for the second time this season at the cavernous Porter Park. “We are a strong hitting team, and when we get a pitch to hit we are looking to fire,” said Koszuth, whose homer was his first in an MSUB uniform. “I had been struggling (this season). I got a curveball, it was up, and I just did what I did.”
Dylan Barkley tossed 5 2/3 stellar innings in Game 2 and Brooks Zimmer picked up his GNAC-leading sixth save of the year to highlight the team’s second win of the day. “I have come into a couple of games like this, and I just try to get the job done for the boys,” Zimmer commented on entering with the tying runs on base. “Barkley threw incredible today. I don’t really think about it too much, I just try to do what I can do.”
Setian finished 5-for-8 in the doubleheader, to pace MSUB, which made it 13 wins in its last 15 games after starting the year 0-11. “Offensively we strung a lot of good at bats together,” Sutton said. “We had a really good approach in Game 1 finding a lot of barrels, and that carried into Game 2.”
Concordia slipped to 9-18 overall and is now 7-11 in league play with the losses. Liam Knowles had a three-run home run in Game 1, before Jeffrey Lusink tossed a complete game in the nightcap.
Game 1 – MSU Billings 14, Concordia 6
The Yellowjackets smacked three home runs in the top of the first inning, wasting no time in jumping out to a 5-0 advantage. Setian drove the first pitch of the afternoon over the fence in left, and Garcia hit one to the same spot after a Conner Linebarger single to make it 3-0. Matt Dillon then drew a two-out walk on a 3-2 pitch, and Peterson crushed the next pitch into the upper bleachers beyond the fence in right field.
MSUB struck again in the top of the second, with three more runs to extend the lead to 8-0. Garcia lifted a sacrifice fly to left, and Cipriano hit his seventh home run of the year to left field.
Yellowjacket starter Steen Fredrickson meanwhile kept the Cavalier lineup at bay, putting up six shutout innings. The senior threw 100 pitches, striking out six and walking three while scattering five hits to record his third win of the season. “Steen had another quality outing, and what was neat to see was that he didn’t have his best stuff but still gave us a really good effort,” Sutton commented on the senior’s gritty performance. “It’s all about competing with what your stuff is that day, and he did a phenomenal job.”
The game appeared to be in hand at 10-0 after the top of the seventh inning, but momentum took a big shift in CU’s direction in the bottom of the frame. Knowles hit his second home run of the season, with a three-run shot over the fence in right to get the ‘Cavs on the board. There were five walks and an error by the ‘Jackets in the ugly seventh inning that led to three more runs, and CU found itself back in the game down just 10-6.
MSUB took advantage of an error by CU and a pair of walks in the top of the eighth, when Brandon Koszuth crushed a 3-2 pitch over the fence in right field for a game-changing grand slam. Yellowjacket reliever Hunter Roubidoux finished the job after that, putting up zeroes in the bottom of the eighth and the ninth to complete his first-career save.
The Cavaliers didn’t go without opportunities to score more, as they stranded 15 runners on base in Game 1.
Game 2 – MSU Billings 3, Concordia 2 (7 Innings)
Barkley and Lusink locked into a pitcher’s duel, with the Yellowjacket left-hander emerging with the victory. Barkley was one off his season high with seven strikeouts, while walking just one and giving up two runs on four hits.
The ‘Jackets once again got on the board first, plating a run in the top of the first on a fielding error by the ‘Cavs. Damon Peters got the run back with a solo homer to left that kicked off the top of the wall and out, but it was the only run CU managed until the sixth inning.
Chris Arpan delivered a double into the left-field corner that scored Cipriano, and Sam Powers plated another run with a ground out as the ‘Jackets crept ahead 3-1 in the third inning. MSUB had just two hits and a walk the rest of the game however, as Lusink kept the Cavaliers alive with a chance to win.
Zimmer was summoned with two runners on and one out in the bottom of the sixth, and Dominic Enbody brought home a run with a ground out to third base. Koszuth had a key defensive effort on the play, as he niftily picked a low throw out of the turf that saved the tying run from scoring. Zimmer followed with a strikeout, moving MSUB three outs from the win.
Tyler Pruitt led off with a base hit to right field in the bottom of the seventh, but an impressive play by Zimmer coming off the mound ended CU’s hopes for a comeback. Jake Wikel popped up a bunt attempt that the freshman had to lunge forward to catch, before he turned and fired just in time to double off Pruitt at first. Zimmer then emphatically blasted three straight strikes past Trevor Huddleston to end the game.
The ‘Jackets won despite stranding 10 runners on base, while the Cavaliers left four throughout the game. Setian and Peterson each had a pair of hits for MSUB, while Pruitt was the lone Cavalier with multiple hits.
THE BUZZ: Koszuth was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…MSUB is now 22-8 all-time and 12-4 in games played in Portland…it was the second time this season MSUB tied the school record with five home runs in a game…the other time was on March 8 at Northwest Nazarene…MSUB pushed its GNAC-leading home run total to 32, which is tied for fifth-most in MSUB single-season history…the home run was the 17th of Garcia’s career, as he moved into a tie for fourth place in MSUB history…the win was the 15th of Fredrickson’s career, as he remains No. 2 in MSUB history…Zimmer is now one save away from tying Brian Howe’s MSUB single-season record of seven, which he set in the 2011 season.
COMING UP: The series concludes on Saturday with another doubleheader scheduled to start at noon. Live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available through the MSUB Stretch Internet portal online.