(Editor’s note: MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – Slugging its way to a doubleheader split and a series win over Great Northwest Athletic Conference opponent Northwest Nazarene University on Friday at Dehler Park, the Montana State University Billings baseball team racked up 23 runs on 27 hits.
The Yellowjackets held on for a 15-11 win in a back-and-forth Game 1 Friday, before the Nighthawks salvaged a win on the weekend with a 10-8, extra-inning victory in the series finale.
MSUB jumped to 22-18 overall and 22-10 in conference play with Friday’s split, and the Yellowjackets will remain in first place in the GNAC standings at the end of the weekend. “Today was a battle, and that was two postseason teams getting after it,” said MSUB head coach Aaron Sutton. “You saw from both sides that nobody was going to quit, and they kept battling back. Our guys wanted the sweep, but we still come out with the series win against a good ball club.”
Jalen Garcia went 7-for-10 with four RBIs in the doubleheader, while Chris Arpan went 5-for-9 and hit his sixth home run of the year. “Jalen is our guy, and he is playing really good ball right now,” Sutton said. “He is finally starting to find his groove after battling back from a couple of injuries. We just try to get it to the next guy, and hopefully we can get a few more guys getting into a groove like Jalen is in.”
Wyatt Setian hit his 10th homer of the season late in Game 1, and Daniel Cipriano hit his GNAC-leading 13th of the year in Game 1 as well.
NNU meanwhile moved to 19-19 overall and 15-15 in conference play after getting out of town with a victory. Rocco Ferrari homered for the second straight day, with a key three-run shot in Game 1. Bennett Tabaracci was 6-for-10 out of the leadoff spot, while Kyle Redford went 4-for-10 and drove in three runs to lead NNU offensively.
Game 1 – MSU Billings 15, Northwest Nazarene 11
Northwest Nazarene nearly overcame an 8-0 deficit after the third inning, fighting back and getting the score to 10-9 with a pivotal six-run seventh inning. But the Yellowjackets righted the ship with a five-run bottom of the seventh, and held on to clinch the series win.
Senior Jarrod Molnaa had a season-high 12 strikeouts, and picked up his fifth win of the season by tossing 6 1/3 solid frames. He threw a season-high 121 pitches, while giving up six runs – four earned – off eight hits and a pair of walks. “Jarrod was sharp, getting his breaking ball going and his fastball command was good today too,” Sutton commented on the senior right-hander. “We got some offense going for him early, and I think he got comfortable. It was big for him to extend for us, and that allowed us to save some arms for later on in the day.”
Carson Woolery pitched well over the final two innings of the game, giving up just one earned run and striking out a pair to ensure the win.
The ‘Jackets got to work in the first inning, when Garcia lofted his first triple of the day off the wall in center and Cipriano followed with a two-run homer to make the score 3-0. The Nighthawks ran into trouble in an ugly third inning, that featured three walks and three hit batters to help MSUB score five more times.
NNU got on the board in the fourth, taking advantage of a pair of Yellowjacket errors to score twice.
Andrew Schleusner came inches away from a home run in the bottom of the sixth, settling for a triple that crashed off the top of the bricks in center field. That came after Arpan’s solo home run to center, and Tyler Detloff followed with an RBI-single to make it a 10-3 ballgame.
Things fell apart for MSUB in the seventh inning however, as the defense committed three more errors and Ferrari delivered a three-run blast over the wall in right-center that helped NNU pull within a single run.
Setian atoned for a pair of defensive miscues by crushing the first pitch of the bottom of the seventh over the fence in center, and that kicked off MSUB’s big five-run inning that ultimately proved to be the difference. Arpan and Detloff each had another RBI in the frame, and PJ Ausmus drove in the final run with his first-career triple into the gap in left-center.
NNU starter Ryan Connor couldn’t make it out of the second inning, in a game where NNU wound up piecing it together on the mound with five different arms. Dylan Cure was the most effective, as he scattered two runs on six hits while eating up 3 2/3 innings out of the bullpen.
MSUB left 10 runners on base in Game 1, while the Nighthawks stranded seven and struck out a season-high 15 times.
Game 2 – Northwest Nazarene 10, MSU Billings 8 (8 Innings)
NNU rallied for five runs in the seventh and plated the winning runs in the eighth as the Nighthawks got out of town with one win on the weekend.
The Nighthawks jumped out to an early lead with a pair of runs in the top of the first inning, on an RBI-triple by Parker Price and an RBI-single by Ferrari.
MSUB starter Keven Mackintosh settled down after that however, striking out six batters over his first two innings and giving up just one run over the next five frames. Overall the lefty struck out 10 while walking just one, and took the no-decision while giving up six runs – five earned – on nine hits and throwing a season-high 107 pitches in 6 1/3 innings.
“Keven was a little shaky at first, but then really got into a groove,” Sutton said on a day where Mackintosh threw a first-pitch strike to 24 of the 30 batters that he faced. “He gutted it out, and he is a competitor. He had another quality outing for us, and we look for him to get back at it for us again next week.”
MSUB evened the score at 2-2 in the bottom of the third inning, thanks in part to a pair of errors as well as an RBI-single by Setian. Landon Peterson tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the fourth with a groundout, before Ryan Roche gave MSUB the lead with a two-out double to left field.
A big three-run sixth inning positioned MSUB just three outs away from the series sweep, as Setian had a sacrifice fly and Garcia’s second triple of the day plated two more runs to make it a 7-3 game.
Jesse Hilyard led off the top of the seventh with a double to left-center however, and the Nighthawks brought home five in the inning to jump ahead 8-7. NNU could have had even more runs in the frame, if it weren’t for a pair of key defensive plays by the Yellowjackets. Detloff strode forward on a sinking line drive off the bat of Tabaracci, and dove to snag it for out number one. Setian then slid to his back-hand and picked up a tough short hop to record the second out off the bat of Nathan Cassara.
Setian’s pickup kept the game tied at 7-7, but Cameron Duke pushed NNU ahead with an infield single to put the pressure on heading into the bottom of the seventh.
Back-to-back doubles into the left-field corner by Arpan and Sam Powers tied the score at 8-8, but Hilyard got the next three hitters out to strand the winning run on third and send it to extra innings.
Zander Petrich helped negate a one-out walk in the top of the eighth, as he expertly picked out a short-hop throw from Peterson from behind the plate and applied a tag just in time to catch Price trying to steal second. Three straight two-out hits put NNU ahead for good however, with Ben Johnson delivering the final blow as he rolled a two-run single through the right side to make it 10-8.
MSUB loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the inning, but Hilyard emphatically struck out the next two batters to end the day.
Hilyard won his fifth game of the year, striking out four and walking none while going four full innings out of the bullpen. He threw 70 pitches, giving up four runs on eight hits in relief of Price, who started the game. Price also went four frames, striking out two and walking two while allowing four runs on three hits.
THE BUZZ: Garcia was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…he now has 11 career triples, and is one away from Luke Reinschmidt’s MSUB career record of 12…Garcia is also three triples away from the all-time GNAC mark of 14, held by Joey Price of Western Oregon (1999-2002)…MSUB is now 56-49 all-time against NNU and is 26-24 in games played in Billings…MSUB’s six errors in Game 1 matched the team’s season single-game high…MSUB’s three triples tied the team single-game record…it was the third time in school history MSUB has had three triples in a game, with the other times coming on April 8, 2014 against Dickinson State and on February 8, 2013 against Dakota Wesleyan…Petrich made his collegiate career debut on the mound in Game 1.
COMING UP: MSUB has its final road trip of the 2019 regular season next week, with a four-game series at Central Washington University. Doubleheaders are scheduled for 12 p.m. Pacific time next Friday and 11 a.m. Pacific time next Saturday, and live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available for all four games through the MSUB Stretch Internet portal online.