MSU Billings splits twin bill at Western Oregon

(MSUB Athletics release)

MONMOUTH, Ore. – Daniel Cipriano hit four home runs and Matt Dillon added three at the Western Oregon University Baseball Field on Sunday afternoon, helping Montana State University Billings split a Great Northwest Athletic Conference doubleheader with the Wolves.

The Yellowjackets gifted the Wolves the opener, as they gave up four walks and a hit batter to watch an 11-9 lead vanish in the bottom of the ninth. Then a dropped fly ball to center ended the contest 12-11, in MSUB’s fourth walk-off defeat this season.

MSUB responded with a 7-3 victory in Game 2, at long last securing its first win of the year to move to 1-11 overall and 1-3 in league play. Cipriano and Dillon each hit two home runs in Game 1, marking the second time in program history that two players have hit multiple home runs in the same game. The four total home runs by Cipriano on Sunday are the most ever by an MSUB player on a single date. “Our guys did a good job to continue to play the game and keep themselves in it,” said MSUB head coach Aaron Sutton. “We had some guys step into some big roles. Keven Mackintosh, Hunter Roubidoux, and Brooks Zimmer threw extremely well today, and Daniel Cipriano and Matt Dillon really picked us up offensively. Overall I thought our offense put together some good at-bats and applied some pressure in multiple ways. We will enjoy this one, but I expect our guys’ intensity level to be high this week in practice.”

Western Oregon moved to 5-1 on the season with the split, and is 3-1 in conference play. Griffey Halle finished 4-for-8 with five RBIs in the doubleheader to lead WOU at the plate.

COMPLETION OF SATURDAY’S HALTED GAME

Western Oregon 8, MSU Billings 6 (7 Innings)

Western Oregon did all its damage with an eight-run third inning that featured three of the Yellowjackets’ five errors in the game. Jared McDonald’s second three-run home run of the day highlighted the big inning, which proved to be enough to deal the Yellowjackets their 10th straight loss.

Dylan Barkley was saddled with the loss as he gave up all eight runs, but only three of them were earned as the defense let him down. He had four strikeouts and a pair of walks, while giving up five hits in his 2 1/3 innings of work.

Jared Winslow and Sterling Lay combined to allow just two baserunners over the final 3 2/3 innings, and the Yellowjackets had a chance to come back late.
Trailing 8-3 after four innings, the ‘Jackets made some noise with a three-run fifth to get back into the game. Chris Arpan and Blake Bell had RBI-doubles, while Dillon had a run-scoring single to bring the score to 8-6.

Play was halted due to darkness after Winslow responded with a 1-2-3 bottom of the fifth inning, and upon the new day Connor McCord was summoned to the mound for a six-out save opportunity. The lefty shook off a leadoff walk in the top of the sixth, and worked around the baserunner with a pair of strikeouts. MSUB brought the tying run to the plate when Dillon drew a one-out walk in the seventh, but Bell hit into a game-ending double-play.

WOU starter Austin Crowson earned the win, giving up three runs on five hits with four strikeouts and three walks in four full innings pitched on Saturday. The Wolves needed just five hits to score their eight runs, and left only four runners on base in an efficient performance. MSUB meanwhile stranded seven runners in the game.

The Yellowjackets had an early lead, when Andrew Schleusner punched an RBI-single to right in the second and Jalen Garcia hit his second home run of the year in the third to make it 3-0. MSUB never recovered from WOU’s eight-run frame however, and the Wolves saw out the win playing error-free defense.

SUNDAY’S DOUBLEHEADER

Game 1 – Western Oregon 12, MSU Billings 11

Josh Overstreet took the mound to start the ninth with a two-run lead in hand, and recorded a pair of outs despite walking two of the first four hitters he faced. He couldn’t secure the final out however, as two more walks and a hit batter preceded Runge’s routine fly ball that was dropped to end the game in disheartening fashion.

Jarrod Molnaa had eight strikeouts in his 5 1/3 innings of work, while surrendering nine runs on 10 hits and throwing 107 pitches. Hunter Roubidoux followed with 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief, giving up one walk and one hit to get MSUB to the ninth with the lead.

Jacob Fricke posted a no-decision, after four full innings of work and giving up six runs on eight hits with five strikeouts. Five WOU relievers came on after that, with Kolbe Bales earning the win after tossing the final 2 1/3 frames and striking out four.

The Wolves struck first, when Halle laced a two-run triple to left field in the bottom of the first inning. MSUB scored the next six runs however, establishing a lead that held until the ninth. Cipriano hit the first pitch of the second inning over the left-field fence, and Dillon made it a 3-2 game with a two-run shot three batters later.

Cipriano delivered again in the third, lofting a two-out, three-run blast that just cleared the right-field fence to push the score to 6-2. The Wolves got one back in the third, and Blayze Arcano hit a two-run double in the fourth to make it a one-run ballgame.

Dillon’s second homer came in the fifth inning, in the form of a three-run shot to help him match his career high of five RBIs in a game. The Wolves refused to go away however, as they manufactured three runs in the sixth and drove Molnaa from the game with the score at 11-9.

MSUB had a big chance in the top of the seventh, with runners on second and third and only one out. Bales ended the inning with back-to-back strikeouts however, keeping the deficit at two runs.

Conner Linebarger came through with a stellar defensive play to end the eighth, taking a ground ball to the bag at second himself and getting off a leaping throw to first to complete a double play.

Game 2 – MSU Billings 7, Western Oregon 3 (7 Innings)

Keven Mackintosh earned his first win with the Yellowjackets, scattering three hits over 5 2/3 innings and giving up three runs while throwing 86 pitches. Freshman Brooks Zimmer closed the door, giving up just one baserunner over the final 1 1/3 innings on the mound.

Cipriano smashed a three-run homer over the fence in right-center, highlighting a game-defining five-run third inning. Alex McFarland-Smith singled in his first-career at-bat, and the ‘Jackets added one more run on a wild pitch to make it 5-0.

A one-out walk issued to Runge in the fourth marked the Wolves’ first baserunner of the day, and McDonald broke up the no-hit bid with an RBI-single to make it a 5-1 score. Halle followed with a two-run home run, but it stood as the final runs scored of the game for WOU.

Cipriano led off the top of the fifth by belting an 0-2 pitch over the fence in center, capping off an incredible day with his eighth RBI. Dillon followed with a solo blast to left two batters later, and it was all the offense MSUB needed to pull out the win.

Zimmer inherited a pair of baserunners with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, and proceeded to strike out Thomas Ahlstrom to move his team three outs from a victory. He pitched around a leadoff single, and won a seven-pitch battle with Patrick Chung to get a game-ending flyout.

The ‘Jackets played clean defense in Game 2, and stranded just three baserunners in the efficient offensive showing.

THE BUZZ: Cipriano was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…MSUB is now 24-73 all-time against WOU and is 11-32 in road games…Cipriano and Dillon made it 26 two-homer games in MSUB history…it was most recently achieved by Dillon on February 16 at Colorado Mesa…Dillon reached his personal best of five RBIs on two previous occasions, most recently on March 23, 2018…Dillon joined Ryan Myers as the only other Yellowjacket to have three different two-homer games in his career…all seven of the players in MSUB history who have had a pair of two-home run games achieved it in the same season…Cipriano and Dillon each finished with nine total bases in Game 1, which is tied for 10th-most in MSUB single-game history…the other time two MSUB players each hit a pair of homers in the same game was on March 30, 2018, when Myers and Kade Hall each had a pair at Central Washington…Game 1 Sunday marked the 11th time in school history the ‘Jackets have had four or more home runs in a game…Colby Robison had two-home run games on back-to-back dates April 26-27, marking the other time in school history a player has hit multiple home runs in consecutive games…Dillon’s home run in Game 2 was the 10th of his career, which is the 11th-highest total in MSUB history.

AHEAD: MSUB heads back to Billings, but will stop in Nampa, Idaho for a four-game series at Northwest Nazarene University this weekend. Doubleheaders are scheduled for 3 p.m. next Friday and noon next Saturday, and live video and live statistics will be available online through the MSUB Stretch Internet portal here.

Scott Breen

Scott Breen

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