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Cipriano reaches base in 8 of 10 at-bats, MSU Billings maintains GNAC lead

Posted at 9:34 PM, Apr 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-26 23:34:59-04

(Editor’s note: MSUB Athletics release)

ELLENSBURG, Wash. – A doubleheader sweep Friday by the Montana State University Billings baseball team over Great Northwest Athletic Conference opponent Central Washington University at the CWU Baseball Field gave the Yellowjackets a bit of breathing room in first place in the conference standings.

MSUB ripped off seven runs in the top of the first inning in an eventual 12-6 win in Game 1, before riding a pair of stellar efforts by left-handed pitchers Dylan Barkley and Sterling Lay to a 5-2 win in the nightcap. The Yellowjackets improved to 24-18 overall and are now 24-10 in conference play with the wins Friday. Central Washington meanwhile slipped to 14-25 overall and is now 12-23 in league play.

“These were two tough-fought wins today,” said MSUB head coach Aaron Sutton. “We got quality innings on the mound from all of our staff in a very offensive park. Offensively, we got away from our approach a bit, but had some big knocks when we needed them most. It will be a quick turnaround tomorrow, so our guys will have to refocus and get ready to roll.”

2019 GNAC Title Race Update
Things couldn’t be tighter at the top of the GNAC standings, as the Yellowjackets continued to hold the top spot over second-place Western Oregon University. The Wolves split a doubleheader with Concordia University on Friday, settling for a 3-1 series win as they wrapped up play for the weekend. The ‘Jackets enter Saturday’s series finale with the Wildcats in first place by 1.5 games and 30 percentage points.

2019 GNAC Baseball Standings (after games on April 26, 2019)
Place Team GNAC Wins GNAC Losses Win %

1 *MSU Billings 24 10 .697
2 *Western Oregon 22 11 .667
3 Northwest Nazarene 16 15 .516
4 Saint Martin’s 14 19 .424
5 Central Washington 11 21 .344
6 Concordia 12 23 .343
*-Clinched GNAC Championships Berth

Daniel Cipriano reached base in 8 of 10 plate appearances in Friday’s doubleheader, and slugged his GNAC-leading 14th home run of the season in Game 2. Jalen Garcia had his sixth home run of the year and the 20th of his career in Game 1.

Jaden Hassel homered twice in Game 1 and Colton Bunt added his first of the year for the Wildcats.

Game 1 – MSU Billings 12, Central Washington 6

The Yellowjackets sent nine men to the plate in the top of the first inning before CWU was able to record the first out of the game. CWU starter Tyler Hoefer gave up seven hits, a walk, and a hit batter before being relieved by Tyler Meek in the frame. Meek was able to retire the three hitters he faced in order, but by then MSUB had built a 7-0 that it never relinquished. Conner Linebarger and Matt Dillon had back-to-back two-run hits to highlight the big opening inning.

That was enough to back MSUB starter Steen Fredrickson to his fifth win of the year, as he struck out eight while walking two and giving up five runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings of work.

CWU made some noise in the bottom of the third, when Mitch Lesmeister and Justin Hampson set the table for a three-run home run to right by Hassell. Fredrickson ran into a jam in the bottom of the fourth, after a walk and a double by Bunt put runners on second and third with no outs. The senior ace sandwiched a groundout to the catcher with a pair of strikeouts however, keeping the score line at 7-3 and stranding the runners.

Garcia’s sixth home run of the season was a solo shot with two outs in the top of the fifth, but the Wildcats got one back in the sixth on an RBI-double by Lesmeister.

Bunt ripped his first home run of the year out to right with one out in the bottom of the eighth, and the Wildcats had a chance to get back into the game. Hassel won a long battle with reliever Jared Winslow, drawing a walk on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases with two outs. That put the tying run on base with Yi-Fan Pan at the plate, but the Yellowjacket senior buckled down and recorded a strikeout to strand the bases loaded.

MSUB responded with a three-run ninth inning, as Wyatt Setian and Garcia each had RBIs in the frame to extend the lead back out to 12-6. Winslow worked around a leadoff single in the bottom of the ninth, and secured his second save of the season.

Fredrickson moved up to No. 7 in GNAC history with 188 strikeouts, moving past Mike Eisenhauer of Western Oregon (185, 2007-09), and Brady Miller of Western Oregon (187, 2015-17).

Game 2 – MSU Billings 5, Central Washington 2 (7 Innings)

Barkley contributed five strong innings, striking out seven and issuing just one walk while giving up two runs on nine hits. The freshman left-hander moved into a tie with Western Oregon’s Alex Roth for the most wins in the GNAC this season, earning his sixth of the year after throwing a season-high 111 pitches.

Andrew Schleusner helped bail Barkley out of a one-out jam in the bottom of the first, catching strike three and firing a strike down to second to nail Hampson trying to steal just before Lesmeister could reach home plate.

Ryan Roche led off the top of the third with a single, kicking off a three-run rally that put MSUB in front. Garcia had an RBI-single, and the ‘Jackets scored two more runs on a pair of groundouts to pull ahead 3-0.

The Wildcats got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third, as they loaded the bases with one out against Barkley. Hampson had an RBI single and Pan lofted a sacrifice fly to center to make it a 3-2 game, but Barkley stranded a pair of runners with an inning-ending strikeout.

A baserunning mistake by Jesse Unger got MSUB off the hook in the bottom of the fourth, as Setian picked him off at third on a bobbled slow roller to end the frame instead of a bases-loaded situation.

Cipriano delivered his GNAC-leading 14th home run of the year in the top of the fifth, bringing home Garcia and padding MSUB’s lead to the tune of 5-2. Lay worked around a walk in the bottom of the sixth, ending the inning with a strikeout to move the ‘Jackets three outs away from the doubleheader sweep. He mowed down the Wildcats in order in the bottom of the seventh, securing his third save of the season.

THE BUZZ: Cipriano was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…MSUB is now 53-49 all-time against CWU and has a record of 26-25 in games played in Ellensburg…Garcia broke a tie for No. 3 on the all-time MSUB RBI list, as his three on the day gave him 114 in his career…next on the list is No. 2 Luke Reinschmidt who had 127 from 2014-16…with a single off the bench in Game 1, Tyler Detloff is now 4-for-6 on the season when pinch hitting…Winslow’s save was the 13th of the year for MSUB, breaking the school record for team saves in a single season…the previous mark of 12 saves in a season was established in 2018…Cipriano was hit by a pitch in Game 2 for the 20th time this season, which is the fourth-highest HBP total in GNAC history…he is now five shy of the GNAC record of 25 held by Jamie Nilsen of Central Washington achieved during the 2008 season…Cipriano is now three away from Ryan Myers’ MSUB record 23 times hit by a pitch, which he established during the 2018 season.

NEXT UP: The series concludes on Saturday with another doubleheader scheduled for 11 a.m. Pacific/noon Mountain time. Live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available through the MSUB Stretch Internet portal online.