(Editor’s note: MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – Allie Hughes and Brittanee Fisher homered and Alyssa Etheridge earned two wins in the circle as the Montana State University Billings softball team defeated Simon Fraser University in both games of a Great Northwest Athletic Conference doubleheader Friday at Avitus Group Stadium.
The Yellowjackets came from four runs down to walk off the Clan 5-4 in game one, after an errant throw to third base allowed Skyler Jenkins to score the winning run. Etheridge punctuated a 2-1 victory in game two after throwing 7.0 innings and allowing one earned run on eight hits, walked three, and struck out three. The ‘Jackets scored single runs in the first and fourth innings.
“I thought our team did very well today,” said head coach Jessica Rayman. “We got out of the gate this morning a little slow but then we didn’t give up and kept battling through to the end so it was good to see them compete so hard out there. Alyssa threw awesome for us all day and I was so proud of her. She’s going to be the type of pitcher that can go long innings and be consistent in her career if she continues down the path she’s on.
MSU Billings (13-31, 6-20 GNAC) broke a five game losing streak and moved ahead of the Clan for seventh place in the GNAC standings. MSUB continued to play well at home, despite limited opportunities in 2019 due to seasonably snowy weather in Billings this spring.
“It was amazing the way the team came out today,” commented senior catcher Madison Kelly after the game. “We had a few ups and downs along the way but the way we came back was incredible. It’s always fun to win on a walk off hit, just a really good feeling.”
Game 1 –MSU Billings 5, Simon Fraser 4
Allie Hughes went two for three with a double, a home run, and three runs batted in to help the ‘Jackets come back to win 5-4 in game one.
Courtney DeAdder doubled in a run in the top of the first inning for a 1-0 Clan lead. SFU added three runs on four hits in the fourth. Hannah Boulanger and Annika Lundrigan singled to start the inning and advanced into scoring position on a groundout by Alex Ogg. Hailey Gearey singled to left to score Lundrigan and an errant throw home from left field allowed Boulanger to score. Bonnie Whitford singled to score Gearey but was thrown out trying to stretch it to a double.
Hughes easily cleared the left field fence with a lead off solo home run in the bottom of the fifth off SFU starter Jessica Fasolino.
Trailing 4-1 in the sixth, Shayla Felix and Cailee Morgan both singled with one out to begin another scoring threat. Sidney Pollard reached on an error to load the bases and Rylan Austin grounded out to score Felix, making it 4-2. Hughes followed with a double down the left field line to tie the game 4-4.
Jenkins singled to start out the bottom of the seventh and Brittanee Fisher drew a walk. Kelly tapped a bunt back to the rubber and Fasolino threw the ball into left field attempting to get the lead runner Jenkins forced out at third. Jenkins then beat a throw home, resulting in the winning run.
“Maddi did a great job of getting the bunt down to put pressure on their defense,” Rayman commented on the winning play. “Then Skyler ran hard to third base and was able to come up quick and go.”
MSUB starting pitcher Haley Couch earned a no decision after pitching the opening four innings and allowing four earned runs on nine hits, walked one, and struck out zero. Etheridge (7-11) picked up the win in relief after holding the Clan to zero runs on one hit and struck out three through the final 3.0 innings.
“I felt Haley pitched well for us today,” Rayman said. “We just didn’t play very good defense behind her and changing it up with Alyssa in the later innings helped us get going a little bit. Sometimes you just need to make a change to get the momentum back and I thought Alyssa did that for us in game one.”
Fasolino (5-14) took the loss for Simon Fraser. Fasolino started the game in the circle, then re-entered in the seventh to take the loss. In total, she pitched 4.0 innings and allowed three two runs (one earned) on three hits, walked one and struck out two.
The Yellowjackets finished with five runs on six hits and one error. Hughes was the only player to record a multi-hit game. The Clan scored four runs on 10 hits with two errors. Ogg went 3-for-4 with one double, and one run scored. DeAdder was 2-for-4 with a double.
Game 2 –MSU Billings 2, Simon Fraser 1
Etheridge found the strike zone early and often with a mix of fastballs and off-speed pitches to help the ‘Jackets win game two 2-1. Etheridge (8-11) held the Clan off the scoreboard until the seventh inning and ended with one earned run allowed on eight hits, walked three, and struck out three. Hailee Gregerson and Skyler Jenkins each went 2-for-3 at the plate and Gregerson had one run batted in.
The Yellowjackets scored a run in the bottom of the first inning to gain an early lead. Pollard singled and scored after Gregerson lifted a single into center field with two outs. MSUB made it 2-0 in the fourth when Fisher smashed a home run to straight away center field with two outs.
Etheridge walked two in the top of the fifth but worked out of the jam when she got Whitford and Amanda Janes to ground out, which ending the inning. SFU threatened again in the seventh. Georgia Ogg slapped a hit to third base and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Georgia Ogg advanced to third on ground out from Alex Ogg and scored on a Whitford single to center field. With two outs and the tying run on first, Janes grounded the ball to Morgan at second, who flipped it 10 feet to Fisher to end the game.
“I tried to be focused on staying ahead of hitters,” Etheridge said after game two. “I knew my defense would help me if I could get pop ups and groundouts. Our defense can be awesome and when we’re all focused out there we can have games with no errors like we just had.”
Alex Ogg, Whitford, and Hannah Boulanger recorded two hits apiece for SFU, adding to the Clan’s eight hit total. MSUB ended with eight hits and left six runners on base while SFU stranded nine. Jessica Tate (0-9) took the loss for Simon Fraser after giving up two earned runs on eight hits, walked one, and struck out two. Etheridge narrowly missed picking up the first shutout of her career.
UP NEXT: Montana State Billings plays Simon Fraser University in a second doubleheader Saturday with the first pitch of game one scheduled for 12 p.m. The Yellowjackets will honor seniors Shayla Felix, Madison Kelly, and Kelsee Bushell in between games for their contributions to the MSUB softball program. Saturday’s doubleheader represents the final games of the regular season for MSUB.
“This weekend, we are playing for our seniors,” said Etheridge. “We’re just going to leave it all out there. It’s our last games so we’re all playing for them. Madison Kelly and all our seniors are such hard workers. We have really great connections and nicknames for each other too. Kelsee is still a leader for us even though she’s injured and Shayla’s just a sweet heart.”
THE BUZZ: Allie Hughes was named St. Vincent player of the day. Hughes had a home run and three runs batted in game one…MSU Billings improved to 21-17 all-time against the Clan and lead the season series 2-0. Last season, MSUB split with SFU in Burnaby, British Columbia 2-2… Simon Fraser (9-28, 4-22 GNAC) has now lost seven straight and sits in last place in the conference with two games remaining in the regular season.