(Editor’s note: MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – Receiving national recognition from all three voting bodies for the 2019 season, Montana State University Billings junior first baseman Daniel Cipriano became the second consensus All-American in program history on Friday.
The Agoura Hills, California, native had a historic campaign for the Yellowjackets, winning the second Triple Crown in Great Northwest Athletic Conference history and tying the conference single-season home run record with 18 en route to GNAC Player and Newcomer of the Year honors.
“Cip had a big year for us in a lot of ways,” said MSUB head coach Aaron Sutton. “It is very rewarding to see him recognized among the nation’s best. He earned everything this year, and our program is very proud to have him represent us at the highest level.”
Cipriano was named a second-team All-American by the Division II Conference Commissioners Association, and a third-team All-American by both the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and the American Baseball Coaches Association. He was the centerpiece in the MSUB lineup, helping the team match the program record for wins in a season with a 33-18 record and break the GNAC record for conference wins in a season by going 30-10 in league play. MSUB won its fourth GNAC regular-season title in the last five years, first-ever GNAC tournament title, and made its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division II West Region Championships.
Cipriano batted .405 on the season, which was tied for the third-highest batting average in the NCAA D2 west region. He led the region with a .528 on-base percentage, with the next-closest player being Gabe Chavez of Cal State San Bernardino 46 points lower at .482. Cipriano’s on-base percentage ranked No. 8 in the NCAA, and he also slugged at a clip of .827 to rank No. 2 in the west region and No. 6 in the nation. His on-base plus slugging percentage of 1.355 was tied for the third-highest mark in the country, trailing only National Player of the Year Josh Elvir of Angelo State (1.601) and first-team All-American first baseman Andrew Czech of Walsh University (1.361). Cipriano’s slugging percentage was the second-highest in GNAC history behind Johnson’s mark of .845 last year, and his on-base percentage was fifth-highest in league history.
Cipriano was also in the top-10 in the NCAA in home runs, and was No. 2 in the nation with an MSUB and GNAC-record 27 times hit by a pitch throughout the year. Among Cipriano’s 68 hits, exactly half went for extra bases as he had 15 doubles and a triple to go along with his record home run total. Cipriano also led the GNAC with 52 RBIs, and in runs scored with an MSUB single-season record of 59. Cipriano’s 139 total bases were an MSUB single-season record, and he was just six total bases shy of the GNAC single-season record of 145 held by Jamie Nilsen of Central Washington (2008).
The only other player to claim the GNAC Triple Crown was MSUB’s Kaleo Johnson, who achieved the feat last year when he became the first player in school history to be a consensus All-American. Johnson hit .412 with 17 home runs and 54 RBIs in 2018, earning GNAC Newcomer of the Year honors as well.
Among Cipriano’s historic achievements throughout the 2019 spring season was a streak of 42 consecutive games reaching base, which ran from February 17 to May 3. The mark was an MSUB record, as he surpassed Kevin Toon’s streak of 31 consecutive games spread over the 2015-16 seasons.
Not only was Cipriano the most dangerous hitter in the GNAC, but he was among the most elite defenders as well. He tied for the team lead with 306 chances at first base, and committed just four errors to log a fielding percentage of .987 on the year. Cipriano did not commit an error over his final 19 games, a streak of 129 consecutive chances without a miscue that remained intact at the end of the season.
Cipriano’s season was filled with awards and recognition, as he twice garnered GNAC and NCBWA West Region Player of the Week accolades. The first such honor came on March 3, after Cipriano etched his name into the third spot in MSUB’s lineup for good.
After receiving just five at-bats through the Yellowjackets’ first eight games of the season, Cipriano went 8-for-15 with four home runs and nine RBIs in a four-game series against Western Oregon. All four of his long balls came on Day 2 of the weekend series, as he became the first player in school history to hit four home runs on a single date. It also marked just the 10th time in GNAC history a player hit four home runs during a single four-game weekend series.
Cipriano’s 18th and final home run of the year came in his final at-bat of the season, when he became just the second player this season to take West Region Pitcher of the Year Brandon Weed of UC San Diego out of the park. Cipriano went 2-for-4 with a double against the fellow All-American from UCSD, after going 2-for-4 the day before against Zach Noll of Point Loma Nazarene, another All-American pitcher.
The towering blast to left field broke Johnson’s MSUB record for home runs in a season, and matched the mark set by Kyle Sani of Central Washington during the 2013 season. Sani started 53 games for the Wildcats and hit his home runs in 196 at-bats, for a rate of one home run every 10.9 at-bats. Cipriano however started just 46 of 53 games and racked up 168 at bats, homering at a rate of once every 9.3 at-bats.
Cipriano hit multiple home runs in four different games in 2019, which was not only the school single-season record but was the most multi-homer games by any player in Yellowjacket history.
Cipriano was named first-team all-region by all three voting bodies, after being unanimously selected as the GNAC first-team all-league first baseman. Cipriano is the third MSUB player to earn All-American recognition, joining Johnson from 2018 and two-time All-American Brody Miller.