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MSU Billings ties single-series GNAC HR mark, wins 5th straight series

Posted at 6:19 PM, Apr 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-08 17:22:25-04
MSUB’s baseball team ties the GNAC record for home runs in a four-game series with 13, and splits with Saint Martin’s on Sunday to seal its fifth-straight conference series victory. (Photo courtesy MSU Billings)

(MSU Billings release)

BILLINGS – Matt Dillon hit the 13th and final home run of the weekend for the Montana State University Billings baseball team on Sunday afternoon, and the Yellowjackets set a pair of records while splitting a Great Northwest Athletic Conference doubleheader with Saint Martin’s University at Dehler Park.

The Yellowjackets slugged a program single-game record six home runs in Game 1 Sunday, rolling to a 17-5 victory to clinch the series sweep. The Saints rallied however to take the finale 6-2, and salvaged a 1-7 record against MSUB on the 2019 season.

“We are out chasing series wins, and the guys got it done in the first three games,” said MSUB head coach Aaron Sutton on the team’s fifth straight GNAC series triumph. “Obviously we were a little disappointed that we couldn’t finish out the sweep on the year against these guys. Our hitters are seeing the ball well and it is nice to be at home. A lot of barrels were found this weekend, and we just need to continue to stay with that approach.”

Dillon’s second homer of the weekend carried out to right field on a blustery day at the yard, and it was the 13th overall hit by the ‘Jackets in the series. That tied the GNAC record for most home runs hit in a four-game weekend set, as MSUB also did it from March 30-31 last year and Western Oregon University did it from March 5-6 during the 2010 season.

The ‘Jackets have now blasted 46 home runs this season, moving past the 2017 mark of 45 for second most in school history. MSUB is on pace to give its school and GNAC record mark of 78 home runs that it achieved last year a run with 16 regular-season games left to play.

Daniel Cipriano and Chris Arpan each homered twice in Game 1, while Wyatt Setian launched his sixth long ball of the year and Andrew Schleusner delivered his first. Dillon and Cipriano are now tied for the GNAC lead with 10 home runs apiece on the season. “Matt has been having a great season for us,” Sutton said. “He has been producing when we need him the most, and we need a few more guys to step into that role. Once we get clicking on all cylinders, we are going to be a real dangerous team.”

MSUB remained in first place in the GNAC standings with the split, moving to 17-15 overall and 17-7 in league play. The Saints meanwhile moved to 12-21 overall and 8-16 in conference play.

Game 1 – MSU Billings 17, Saint Martin’s 5

The Yellowjackets came out of the gates flying on Sunday, plating six runs in the bottom of the first inning and never looking back. Cipriano and Schleusner each went yard in the opening frame, and the six-run burst proved to be enough offense to carry the ‘Jackets.

Senior right-hander Jarrod Molnaa put up four consecutive scoreless frames through the fourth inning, and utilized his defense to get out of a jam in the third with a 6-4-3, inning-ending double play.

With two outs in the fifth, the Saints loaded the bases after an error extended the frame. Isaac Hegamin lifted a bases-clearing double into the gap in right-center, getting SMU on the board and snapping Molnaa’s scoreless inning streak at 24 1/3 innings pitched. That mark was the second-longest in MSUB history and tied for the fourth-longest in GNAC history.

Molnaa went on to finish six full innings, while striking out three and walking one. He gave up four runs on seven hits, but none of the four runs were earned. Molnaa’s streak of consecutive innings without an earned run is still intact at 24 1/3, and he will have a shot at both the MSUB record (29 2/3), and GNAC record (29) in his next outing.

The ‘Jackets responded to the Saints’ four-run fifth inning by continuing to add on, as they plated two more in the bottom of the fifth and put the game out of reach with a five-run sixth. Cipriano drilled his second home run of the day in the fifth, a towering blast that carried well over the left-field fence and nearly left Dehler Park altogether.

Arpan meanwhile hit perhaps an even more impressive home run in the sixth, when he blasted a shot over the 30-foot high batter’s eye in straightaway center field 410 feet from home plate. Setian also homered in the sixth, after coming inches away from a homer in the first and settling for his first career triple. It was the second time in as many weeks that the sophomore fell one hit shy of the cycle, as a double in Game 1 eluded him.

MSUB’s 22 total hits in Game 1 were tied for the second-most in school history, as they came just one hit shy of the all-time mark established last May 9 at the GNAC Championships. The big offensive performance marked the third time this season MSUB had hit five or more home runs, and Arpan’s second of the game in the seventh inning broke the all-time single-game record. The ‘Jackets finished just one home run shy of the GNAC single-game record of seven home runs, achieved by Central Washington on May 1, 2002 against Lewis-Clark State and matched by Western Oregon on April 14, 2012 against Northwest Nazarene.

SMU starter Clark Streby, who went six strong innings against the ‘Jackets on March 24 in Lacey, Washington, was roughed up for six earned runs on nine hits and he threw 42 pitches in just two innings of work. Benjamin Wadowski gave up 10 earned runs over the next four frames, and Ty Matsunami allowed one run on two hits in two innings while making his 2019 debut on the mound.

Junior Sterling Lay meanwhile earned his first-career save as a Yellowjacket, pitching the final three innings and striking out four while giving up just one run on two hits and throwing 47 pitches. Schleusner tied his personal best with four hits in the opening game of the doubleheader, and he was 1 of 5 Yellowjackets to drive in three runs in the game.

Game 2 – Saint Martin’s 6, MSU Billings 2 (7 Innings)

The Saints jumped on MSUB starter Keven Mackintosh for four runs in the top of the first inning, and that was more than enough to back a stellar start by Ryan Dorney on the mound.

“Dorney threw really well, and he had his best stuff against us,” Sutton commented on the Saints’ final starter of the weekend. “We just couldn’t keep it close enough where we could battle back.”

Dorney picked up his second win of the year, striking out six and walking just one while giving up two hits in five shutout frames of work. Luke Hare finished the game with a pair of strikeouts and no walks while giving up two runs on three hits over the final two innings.

Mackintosh got past the rough first inning, and managed to strike out six while walking none and completing five innings. Senior Jared Winslow had a pair of strikeouts and no walks, while giving up one run on four hits in the final two innings of the game.

Hegamin and Ryne Oshiro had back-to-back infield singles to start the game, and Aaron Renaud had the biggest hit of the first inning with a two-out, two-run single into right-center to open up the 4-0 lead.

Dorney baffled the ‘Jacket hitters his first time through the lineup, allowing just one baserunner that came on a fielding error. MSUB’s first knocks of the game were back-to-back singles by Conner Linebarger and Jalen Garcia in the fourth, but Dorney dialed up a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play to clear the threat.

After Colton Peha’s team-leading third home run of the year in the third inning, the Saints got one more run in the seventh when Austin Feist led off with a single and came around to score eventually on a wild pitch.

Dillon prevented the ‘Jackets from being shut out with his 14th career homer in the bottom of the inning, but Hare prevented any kind of rally as he struck out Brandon Koszuth to end the series.

MSUB managed just five hits in the final game of the weekend, and finished the series with 43 runs scored.

THE BUZZ: Schleusner was selected as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…MSUB is now 47-47 all-time against SMU and is 22-22 in games played at Dehler Park…Schleusner’s other four-hit game was on February 9, 2018 at Dixie State…Game 1 was Cipriano’s third two-homer game of the season and it was the first for Arpan…it marked the 28th and 29th times in school history a player has had a multi-homer game.

NEXT UP: The ‘Jackets face second-place Western Oregon University in a four-game series next weekend at Dehler Park. Doubleheaders are set for 1 p.m. on Friday and Saturday