(MSU Billings release)
BILLINGS – The Montana State University Billings softball team closed out senior day and the regular season on a winning note Saturday as they defeated Simon Fraser University 7-6 and 9-0 (five innings) in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference doubleheader at Avitus Group Stadium. The ‘Jackets broke out the bats in both contests, combining for 22 total hits to back up good pitching efforts by Haley Couch and Alyssa Etheridge.
Game one was highlighted by back-to-back second inning solo home runs by Hailey Gregerson and Skyler Jenkins. Allie Hughes pivoted the momentum of the game in the fifth inning when she robbed Amanda Janes on a deep fly ball in center field, nullifying a three run home run. Etheridge picked up her first career save as the ‘Jackets held on to win.
The second inning became the difference for MSU Billings in game two after they sent 13 batters to the plate and scored seven runs on seven hits. Jenkins knocked in her second home run of the twin bill to lead off the second inning onslaught. Etheridge collected her first career shutout in five innings in the win.
After earning a four-game sweep of the Clan on the weekend, MSU Billings (15-31, 8-20 GNAC) finished the season in seventh place in the GNAC standings.
Between games, MSUB honored seniors Madison Kelly, Shayla Felix, and Kelsee Bushell and all three contributed to the doubleheader victories on the diamond. Kelly posted two hits and two RBI in game two. Bushell returned from a long injury layoff and picked up a base hit and an assist in game one, and Felix had two hits including a double in game two along with one run batted in.
Game 1 –MSU Billings 7, Simon Fraser 6
Cailee Morgan, Rylan Austin, Gregerson, and Jenkins all had two-hit games for MSUB and Gregerson recorded two home runs to help hold off Simon Fraser 7-6. Jenkins also homered to center field in the second inning.
Simon Fraser began with single runs in the first and second innings off starting pitcher Haley Couch. MSUB answered with back-to-back long balls by Gregerson and Jenkins in the second. Brittanee Fisher doubled to right center field and was hit home on a single by Morgan, which put the ‘Jackets ahead 3-2. Two fielding errors cost MSUB a run in the third but they regained the lead a half inning later when Gregerson homered to left field, also scoring Hughes who reached on a double.
Austin and Hughes started out the ‘Jackets fifth with back-to-back doubles. After Gregerson grounded out, Jenkins doubled to score Hughes, bringing the score to 7-3. Couch allowed three runs on three hits in the sixth but kept MSUB in front by a run. Etheridge faced the minimum three batters in the seventh to pick up the save.
Alex Ogg went 3-for-4 at the plate for Simon Fraser. Hailey Gearey and Samantha Ruffett had two hits apiece along with two runs batted in. Couch (2-4) was the winning pitcher after going 5.2 innings and allowing four earned runs on 11 hits, walking one and striking out zero. Anissa Zacharczuk (2-4) was tagged with the loss in relief after working 4.0 innings and allowing 4 earned runs on seven hits with zero walks, and zero strikeouts.
The Yellowjackets left five runners on base and Simon Fraser left six.
Game 2 –MSU Billings 9, Simon Fraser 0 (5 INN)
MSU Billings sent 13 hitters to home plate in the second inning of game two, resulting in seven runs, seven hits, and one error in the frame. Jenkins led off with a home run to right field and the ‘Jackets also received a double by Felix. Morgan, Pollard, Gregerson, and Kelly all reached on singles. The offense was finally halted when Felix struck out with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Leading 7-0 in the fourth, MSUB added two insurance runs when Fisher blasted a home run to centerfield just short of the scoreboard. Jenkins had reached on a walk and scored on the play.
Etheridge came tantalizingly close to her first shutout Friday afternoon against the Clan, but sealed the deal in game two Saturday for MSUB. Etheridge (9-11) pitched 5.0 innings and did not allow a run on three hits, walked two, and struck out two looking.
Jessica Fasolino (5-15) suffered the loss in the start for the Clan. Fasolino lasted 2.0 innings and allowed seven runs (four earned) on eight hits, walked three, and struck out three. MSUB matched it game one total 11 hits in the game and did not commit any errors in the field.
The win helped the ‘Jackets sweep the season series 4-0 against the Clan after the two teams split 2-2 last season in Burnaby, British Columbia. Simon Fraser (9-31, 4-22 GNAC) finish in last place in the conference standings with the losses.
THE SENIORS REFLECT: “I was talking to the doctors before the game about whether I could play or not and we decided four inning would be good enough,” said senior Kelsee Bushell after the game. “I am so thankful that I got the last four innings of my career. I only played 11 games this year because of my injuries but I couldn’t be happier to finish out there on senior day. It felt like the last 17 years of my life coming out and playing the game I love. It was so great to play in front of my friend and family on senior day as well. I loved coming to Montana State Billings. My teammates were great and I wouldn’t have wanted to play anywhere else. I made friendships that will last a lifetime.”
“The girls here made me feel super welcome from day one at MSUB,” said senior Shayla Felix. “When I made the throw to first base in the last inning for the out, I thought about how that was the last time I would get to make that play and I remembered six year old me when I first started to play the game. I love Kelsee and Madi. Madi has been the biggest supporter of me on the team the last two years and we are extremely close. Kelsee and I are also great friends. We played against each other in junior college so it was really great to play with her here.
“It’s tough to leave,” said senior Madison Kelly. “I’ve been here for four years and dedicated four years of my life to this and I’m not really ready to give it up yet. I can’t explain how great it’s been to be a part of this program. All the girls I’ve played with over these years have made a huge impact on me and I can’t explain how much that means. I think my favorite part of today was that me and Shayla got the last outs and it was the last time we got to catch on this field. I was thinking about what senior day would be like last night and I wanted to just come out and have fun with these girls.”
THE BUZZ: Jenkins was named St. Vincent player of the day. Jenkins had two home runs, four hits and four runs batted in after starting both games. …MSU Billings improved to 23-17 all-time against the Clan and took the season series 4-0. Last season, MSUB split with SFU in Burnaby, British Columbia 2-2… Simon Fraser (9-28, 4-22 GNAC) ended the year on a nine game losing streak.