(Editor’s note: MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – Tyler Detloff delivered a pinch-hit, walk-off double in Game 1 on Thursday at Dehler Park, highlighting a doubleheader sweep for the Montana State University Billings baseball team against Great Northwest Athletic Conference foe Northwest Nazarene University.
With runners on first and second a no outs, and the score tied at 7-7 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Detloff worked a full count against NNU reliever Greg Casper before lining the game-winning hit into the right-field corner.
“I was just trying not to do too much, and just get a knock to the right side,” Detloff said. “I knew it was fair right away, and I knew we had speed on second. It just showed that we are relentless, and we have been that way all year.”
The ‘Jackets followed the 8-7 win by holding on to take Game 2 6-5 to complete the sweep Thursday. MSUB improved to 21-17 with the two wins, and increased its lead atop the conference standings with a league record of 21-9.
“These were two tight games, and good baseball was played by both sides,” said MSUB head coach Aaron Sutton. “Our guys came up when we needed them the most, and I think they are starting to get comfortable in those tight situations. We had some guys come up in big spots, and we are just trying to continue to play good baseball going into tomorrow.”
Daniel Cipriano homered twice in Game 1 to move into a tie with Matt Dillon for the GNAC lead with 12 home runs, and overall he went 4-for-6 with four RBIs in the doubleheader. Wyatt Setian hit his ninth home run of the year in Game 2, and Chris Arpan added his fifth of the season in the nightcap as well.
Northwest Nazarene slipped to 18-18 overall, and is now 14-14 in conference play with the losses.
Game 1 – MSU Billings 8, Northwest Nazarene 7
Detloff’s heroic hit capped off a back-and-forth affair, as each team held the lead at different points. Setian hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third inning, giving the Yellowjackets their first run of the ballgame.
MSUB starter Steen Fredrickson meanwhile put up zeroes through the first three innings, until Larsson Chapman punched an RBI-single into right field in the fourth. It was the Nighthawks’ first hit of the afternoon, and they took their first lead in the fifth when Shawn Grandmont hit his second home run of the year to right field.
Grandmont delivered again with a two-run single in the sixth inning, increasing NNU’s lead to 4-1. Andrew Schleusner came up with a huge defensive play in left field to help limit the damage, as he picked up Michael Hults’ ground-ball single and fired a strike to Landon Peterson behind the plate to nail Dylan Cure trying to score from second. Fredrickson buckled down and got out of the inning, and was rewarded by his offense in the bottom of the frame.
Cipriano muscled his first homer of the day just over the fence in left field to lead off the sixth, and kick-start a four-run rally. A pair of errors by NNU aided the Yellowjackets’ efforts in the inning, and Brandon Koszuth capped off the rally with a two-out RBI-single into right center.
Cipriano belted a two-run home run off the scoreboard in right field in the bottom of the seventh, increasing MSUB’s cushion to a 7-4 advantage. But the Nighthawks stormed back in the top of the eighth, hitting back-to-back-to-back solo home runs to even the score at 7-7. Braeden Dunten, who entered the day 0-for-2 on the season, started the burst by hammering his first homer of the year off the scoreboard in right. Rocco Ferrari and Cure each followed with a home run, the latter giving NNU its 2019 single-game season high with four.
Reliever Ben Johnson mowed through the ‘Jackets in order in the bottom of the eighth, before MSUB reliever Jared Winslow did the same with a clean top of the ninth inning.
Jalen Garcia punched his third hit of the game into center and Cipriano was then hit by a pitch to set the table for Detloff’s big knock that ended the game.
“Tyler has been banged up, so we have been trying to use him in some different areas,” Sutton commented on Detloff’s third pinch-hit knock in the last two weeks. “Every time he comes up with a barrel, and he has just been sticking to the process. Hopefully we can get him healthy, because you can see that when he’s out there he is a valuable asset for us.”
Winslow earned his first win of the year and the 14th of his MSUB career, striking out a pair and giving up just one baserunner in his 1 2/3 innings of work. Fredrickson struck out five while giving up four runs on four hits with four walks and four hit batters in the no decision. The senior threw 119 pitches in seven full innings of work.
Bryan Black started the game for NNU, and struck out four while giving up one unearned run in three innings of work. Johnson gave up six runs on 10 hits while striking out four in five innings out of the bullpen.
Game 2 – MSU Billings 6, Northwest Nazarene 5 (7 Innings)
MSUB started with a bang, plating three runs in the first and three more in the second to jump out to a 6-0 lead. Cipriano grabbed two more RBIs with a double in the first, and Arpan launched a soaring home run to right-center to make it 3-0. Setian then crushed a three-run shot over the fence in left in the second, doubling MSUB’s advantage early on. But that was all the scoring the Yellowjackets managed in what turned into a neck-and-neck affair.
Yellowjacket starting pitcher Dylan Barkley was perfect his first time through the order, retiring the first nine hitters he faced with six strikeouts. The Nighthawks got back into the game with a five-run fourth inning however, picking up six hits in the inning to pull within one. Kyle Redford had a two-run single during the rally, while Ferrari and Grandmont each also had RBIs in the game-changing inning.
Schleusner made his collegiate pitching debut to start off the fifth inning, and immediately got into a jam after Bennett Tabaracci and Parker Price each singled. The junior right-hander pounded the strike zone after that, with back-to-back strikeouts and a foul popup handled by Peterson to strand the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.
“I just tried to have fun, and it was a good experience,” Schleusner commented on taking the ball on the mound for the first time. “It is always nice knowing the coaches have trust in me, and I just tried to throw strikes.”
“We know that Slice is a competitor, and he came in big for us,” Sutton commented on the junior’s effort on the hill. “He commanded two pitches in the zone, and got us out of some tough spots. We always want the ball or bat in his hands.”
It was Sterling Lay’s turn to get out of a jam in the top of the seventh, as he inherited a 2-0 count on Redford with runners at second and third. After a full-count walk loaded the bases, Lay grinded out a pair of tough battles and struck out Jesse Hilyard and Dunten to end the game and complete the sweep.
Barkley improved to 5-2 on the year, giving up five runs on six hits and striking out six while walking none in his four innings. Schleusner finished with four strikeouts and one walk and threw 45 pitches in 2 1/3 innings, while Lay earned his second save of the 2019 season.
NNU starter Cooper Webster shook off the early damage, and struck out five while walking three and giving up six runs on six hits in a six-inning complete game. Webster threw 89 pitches, and gave up just one hit after the second inning.
THE BUZZ: Cipriano was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…MSUB is now 55-48 all-time against NNU and is 25-23 in games played in Billings…the home run was the 13th of Setian’s career…Fredrickson’s five strikeouts gave him 180 in his career, which moved him into sole possession of the No. 9 spot in GNAC history.
AHEAD: The series wraps up on Friday with another doubleheader at Dehler Park. First pitch is scheduled for noon, and live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available through the MSUB Stretch Internet portal online.