(MSU Billings release)
BILLINGS – Matt Dillon took on the deepest part of Dehler Park on Saturday evening, crushing a walk-off home run to give the Montana State University Billings baseball team a doubleheader sweep of Great Northwest Athletic Conference foe Saint Martin’s University.
Dillon hit his GNAC-leading ninth home run of the season on the final pitch of the day, giving the Yellowjackets a dramatic 5-3 win in the extra-inning nightcap. The late fireworks came after MSUB scored a season-high 19 runs in its 19-5 Game 1 victory. MSUB won for the 12th time in its last 13 games, and improved to 16-14 overall and 16-6 in conference play to stay in first place.
During the Yellowjackets’ season-opening 11-game losing streak, they lost four times on walk-offs by opponents and overall this season they have been walked-off on in five different games. Playing at home Saturday for the first time in 2019, Dillon flipped the script. “The beginning of the year was a grind, and we felt like we had a couple of games early,” Dillon commented after his team’s first walk-off win of the year. “It is great to be on this side of it. I got ahead 2-0 and I was sitting on a certain location. I got a hanging breaking ball and I was able to put a good swing on it.”
Dillon’s home run was the sixth and final long ball of the day for MSUB, which slugged four in the run-away opener. Jalen Garcia, Daniel Cipriano, and Wyatt Setian each had a homer Saturday, and Tyler Detloff matched the school record with a pair of solo blasts in Game 1.
“Matt has been tremendous for us all year,” said MSUB head coach Aaron Sutton on the fifth-year senior. “He is a steady-Eddy type of guy, and he brings it every single day. To see him come up for us big again, I’m not surprised. I am really proud of him and what he’s put into it this year.”
SMU fell to 11-20 overall and is now 7-15 in conference play with the losses. Ryne Oshiro hit his first home run of the season for the Saints, who are now 0-6 this season against the Yellowjackets.
Game 1 – MSU Billings 19, Saint Martin’s 5
The Yellowjackets scored four runs in the third and ran away with a 10-run fifth, supplying senior Steen Fredrickson with his fourth victory of the season. The right-hander struck out six and walked one over six complete innings, while limiting the damage to three runs despite allowing 11 hits.
Oshiro and Isaac Hegamin started the game with back-to-back singles, and a walk to Austin Feist with two outs loaded the bases in the top of the first inning. Fredrickson worked hard to get a pair of strikeouts and a line out to end the threat however, as he dodged an early bullet.
Detloff and Setian hit back-to-back solo home runs to start the third inning, and Chris Arpan and Dillon each had two-out RBIs to spot MSUB with a 4-0 lead by the end of the frame.
The Saints got one run back in the fifth when Oshiro hit his first home run of the season, which snapped Fredrickson’s scoreless innings streak at 18 2/3 dating back to March 16. It went down as the third-longest scoreless inning streak in MSUB history.
Fifteen Yellowjackets hit in the monstrous fifth inning, and five different players drove in a run during the lengthy frame. Andrew Schleusner had a pair of RBI-doubles after Garcia got the inning started with a solo home run.
The Saints never threatened after that, and the ‘Jackets continued to add on with five more runs the rest of the way to run away with the win.
“Steen threw the ball extremely well, and he got big outs when we needed him to,” Sutton said. “Offensively we were really good. We had a good plan and a good approach, and our hitters made some good adjustments after Shoup threw it really well against us at their place.”
After striking out 11 Yellowjackets and giving up just one run in eight strong innings two weeks ago in Lacey, Washington, SMU starter Aaron Shoup was roughed up in an abbreviated start Saturday. MSUB got the best of him the second time around, touching him up for nine runs on eight hits in four-plus innings pitched.
Garrison Ritter gave up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings of relief, and Zach Alcos tossed the final 1 1/3 frames for the Saints in Game 1.
Carson Woolery logged 2 1/3 innings in relief of Fredrickson, striking out six and walking one while allowing two runs on four hits. Josh Overstreet finished the game off by collecting the final two outs.
Game 2 – MSU Billings 5, Saint Martin’s 3 (8 Innings)
Dillon’s 13th career home run was preceded by the costliest error of the day for the Saints, who appeared to be out of the bottom of the eighth inning with a strikeout. But SMU catcher Bryant Nakagawa threw the ball down the right-field line and Brandon Koszuth advanced all the way to second base while representing the winning run.
From there, Dillon worked the count into his favor at 2-0 before crunching a hanging breaking ball off the top of the bricks just beyond the fence in deep center field.
“Game 2 was a dogfight, and we knew after the big win in Game 1 that we had to reset and get ready to go again,” Sutton said. “It was a lot of fun to watch those guys compete, and both arms threw tremendously well.”
Just as they did two weeks ago, MSUB starter Dylan Barkley and SMU starter Tanner Inouye locked into a pitcher’s duel early, with each displaying stellar command throughout the game. Inouye struck out eight and walked none in 5 2/3 innings, while Barkley struck out six and walked none in six frames of work.
Sam Muskat struck out a pair in 1 1/3 innings of relief, and Hunter Roubidoux collected his first-career win by getting the final two outs in the top of the eighth inning. Mickey Walker was handed the hard-luck loss, as he surrendered Dillon’s homer as the lone baserunner he allowed over two otherwise-stellar frames of work.
Schleusner had the first big hit of the game in the bottom of the fourth inning, when he rolled a two-out, two-run single into left field that plated Chris Arpan and Cipriano.
The Saints responded in the sixth however, when Colton Peha produced an RBI-double and Ryan Colvin poked a two-out, game-tying single into right field to even the score at 2-2.
Cipriano lofted his eighth home run of the season just over the right-field fence in the bottom of the inning, but the Saints managed to stay alive despite being down to their final out in the seventh. Oshiro drove the game-tying hit up the middle to plate Micah McNicoll, and after Walker cruised through the side in order in the bottom of the seventh the teams headed to extra frames.
After a hit, a walk, and a sacrifice bunt, Roubidoux was summoned from the bullpen with two runners in scoring position and just one out. He sandwiched a hit batter with a pair of huge strikeouts, catching McNicoll looking on a 3-2 pitch to strand the bases loaded and keep the game knotted at 3-3.
“I knew my job was just to throw strikes and pound the zone,” said Roubidoux. “I was just trying to get us back into the dugout to hit. That was a big situation, and it got us some momentum going in the dugout.”
THE BUZZ: Dillon was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…MSUB is now 46-46 all-time against SMU and is 21-21 in games played at Dehler Park…Dillon is now tied for No. 6 in MSUB history in career home runs…Garcia surpassed Kaleo Johnson for No. 4 on the MSUB all-time home run list with 18…the 19 runs scored by the ‘Jackets in Game 2 were their most this season and tied for the fifth most in single-game school history…Fredrickson upped his career strikeout total to 170, which is 13th-best in GNAC history…Walker moved up to 171 career strikeouts, tying Spenser Watkins of Western Oregon (2013-14) for No. 11 in GNAC history.
NEXT UP: The series concludes Sunday morning with an 11 a.m. doubleheader at Dehler Park.