Jackets on verge of GNAC tourney with sweep - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Jackets on verge of GNAC tourney with sweep

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Cody Cooper had 11 strikeouts to break the Montana State University Billings single-season record, highlighting a doubleheader sweep against Western Oregon Sunday at the WOU baseball field that lifted the Yellowjackets into a tie for third place in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference standings.

MSUB had to rally twice to win Game 1 10-6, scoring three runs in the eighth and four more in the ninth to seal the victory behind Cooper’s excellent start. MSUB’s offense then came alive to score seven runs in the fourth and six more in the fifth in a big 18-11 win in Game 2 to complete the sweep and overall series win over WOU.

“Our guys really stepped up big in all aspects this week,” said MSUB head coach Rob Bishop. “I’m really proud of how we competed through adversity on an 11-day road trip. Our bats showed up today against two top-end GNAC starters.”

Landon Peterson went 3-for-5 with two doubles, and three RBIs, and reached base in 6 of 9 plate appearances with three walks. The sophomore also had a sacrifice bunt and made 22 plays defensively behind the plate on the day. Luke Reinschmidt and Adam Cox both went 5-for-9 with four runs scored in the doubleheader, Kyle Durbin went 4-for-9 with five runs scored, and Colter Sternhagen had five RBIs.

HOW THINGS STAND: MSUB is now tied for third place in the GNAC standings at 19-15 in league play and is 25-20 overall. Western Oregon is 26-20 overall and 21-15 in GNAC play, remaining in second place.

Central Washington (26-20, 22-14 GNAC) swept Northwest Nazarene (24-20, 19-15 GNAC) in four games over the weekend, to leapfrog into first place in the GNAC standings. The Wildcats close their season with a crucial four-game series at Western Oregon Friday and Saturday.

Northwest Nazarene holds the tiebreaker over MSUB, meaning the Yellowjackets will need to win one more game against Saint Martin’s this week than the Crusaders do against Concordia. The top-three teams in the regular-season standings advance to the GNAC Championships, hosted by the regular-season champion. All four of the top teams are currently still in contention for a regular-season title.

HISTORY FOR COOPER: With his 11 strikeouts, Cooper surpassed Brady Muller on the MSUB single-season list and has 89 on the season. Cooper’s total is tied for sixth-most in GNAC single-season history, and he broke into the top-20 in GNAC career history now tied for 19th with 147.

GNAC Single-Season Strikeouts Leaders







Roger Evenson

Northwest Nazarene




Nick Waechter

Western Oregon




Gordon Chubb

Central Washington




Blake Keitzman

Western Oregon




AJ Burke

Western Oregon




Grady Wood

Western Oregon



Brandon Williams

Central Washington



Cody Cooper

MSU Billings




Tyler Levin

Central Washington



Spenser Watkins

Western Oregon



Game 1 – MSU Billings 10, Western Oregon 6

Cooper ended the first five of his six innings pitched with strikeouts, but the win evaded him despite a four-run lead late for MSUB.

The ‘Jackets built a strong 6-2 lead with a three-run eighth inning, but the Wolves countered with four in the bottom of the inning to tie the score. A big two-out, RBI-double by Reinschmidt in the top of the ninth kicked off a four-run rally for the ‘Jackets, as Cox, Alec Leighton, and Sternhagen all had RBIs in the inning.

Cooper had 11 strikeouts in six innings, allowing two runs on nine hits with two walks and 111 pitches. Cox finished the game for MSUB, the fourth game in eight days he completed on the mound for the ‘Jackets – all wins.

MSUB loaded the bases in the top of the first, and took the lead on a sacrifice fly by Kevin Toon. Cooper put up zeroes in the first two innings, striking out five of the first six batters he faced. WOU put runners on second and third with no outs in the second, but Cooper struck out the side swinging on the next 10 pitches to get out of the jam.

The Wolves got their first run in the third inning, as a pair of walks and a hit batter plated a run to tie the score. Cooper stranded the bases loaded with another strikeout to end the inning, but found himself in another jam in the fourth. Three straight singles loaded the bases with no outs, as the Wolves threatened to take the lead. Durbin handled a ground ball to nail the lead runner at the plate, and Cooper blew away the next two batters swinging to once again strand the bases loaded and keep the score at 1-1.

Cooper added two more strikeouts in a clean fifth inning, and received another run of support by MSUB in the top of the sixth. Myles Berkram ripped a 2-0 pitch into center field for a two-out, RBI-single that plated Sternhagen. The Wolves responded quickly however, as Forrest Garcia drove in a run with a bunt and the score was once again tied, 2-2.

A Sternhagen ground out in the seventh gave the lead right back to the ‘Jackets, but WOU reliever Elias Bedolla left the bases loaded to prevent any further damage.

A hit batter and base hit to start the seventh drove Cooper from the game, but Bryon Baker came in and prevented the Wolves from scoring with a fly out, ground out, and strikeout.

The rally was on for MSUB in the eighth, as a base hit by Reinschmidt and two straight hit batters loaded the bases. A Corey Morris sacrifice fly followed by a two-run double by Leighton pushed MSUB ahead 6-2, with Cooper still in line for the victory.

WOU again loaded the bases in the eighth however, and this time Erik Long delivered a two-run base hit up the middle off of Cox to plate Garcia and Cody Poznanski. Nick Snyder and Kyle Vanderkin each followed with two-out singles, before Cox finally retired the side with runners on the corners and the score at 6-6.

After Reinschmidt’s double made it 7-6, Durbin was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Cox plated two runs with a single, and Leighton’s second hit of the game made it 9-6. Sternhagen finished the rally with a bases-loaded walk, giving Cox plenty of breathing room to work with on the mound. The sophomore started the ninth with two strikeouts, and worked around a two-out walk to end the game.

WOU starter Darrien Moran allowed three runs on six hits, with four strikeouts and five walks in six innings. Jacob Fricke took the loss, as he gave up the four runs in the top of the ninth.

Four Yellowjackets had multiple hits in the game, and the 1-through-3 hitters in MSUB’s lineup went 8-for-14 with eight runs scored.

Game 2 – MSU Billings 18, Western Oregon 11 (7 Innings)

Seven different Yellowjackets had multiple hits, as MSUB slugged its way to a big win in the series finale.

The game looked even through two innings, before MSUB broke a 2-2 tie with a three-run third inning. The Wolves got one run back in the bottom of the inning, but a seven-run fourth inning by the ‘Jackets blew the game open. Six more runs in the fifth was more than enough offense to secure the win, as MSUB reached its highest run total of the season.

Reinschmidt got the day started with a leadoff single, and Cox stayed hot with another RBI-single to make it 1-0. A balk by WOU starter Gary Steindorf added a second run in the inning, but the Wolves bounced back in the bottom of the frame. Two walks, a hit batter, and a pair of wild pitches helped WOU score twice without a base hit, as the Wolves got both runs back in the last of the first.

MSUB starter Matt Hape and Steindorf both had efficient second innings, and the ‘Jackets came to life again at the plate in the top of the third. Tanner Watson had a double into the left-field corner to score Durbin, and a sacrifice fly from Sternhagen followed by a wild pitch pushed two more runs across for a 5-2 MSUB lead.

Five different Yellowjackets had RBIs in the big fourth inning, with a two-run single by Berkram highlighting the game-changing rally. Peterson added a two-run double amidst the six-run fifth inning, as MSUB established command up 18-5.

The Wolves refused to go down quietly, scoring two runs in the fourth, three in the fifth, and three more in the seventh to stay within seven runs.

Hape gave up five runs on five hits with two strikeouts and four walks in 3 1/3 innings. Steen Fredrickson had three strikeouts and gave up three runs in 2 2/3 innings out of the bullpen, and Corbin Smith threw the final inning for the ‘Jackets.

Steindorf finished with six runs allowed on seven hits with two strikeouts and three walks in three innings. WOU utilized three relievers to finish the game.

ROAD WARRIORS: MSUB completed a nine-game road trip that covered eight total days in Oregon. After losing the opener at Concordia last Saturday, MSUB won five straight and 7 of 9 overall during the trip. In the same time span, Western Oregon lost 8 of 9 games, after entering last week on a 14-game winning streak.

THE BUZZ: Peterson was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…it was Cooper’s fourth 10-strikeout game this season and fifth of his career…Durbin is the second player for MSUB to score four runs in a game, the other being Reinschmidt on Feb. 20 against Metro State…Durbin also recorded his 100th career hit, which came in the fifth inning of the second game…the 16 hits in Game 2 for MSUB tied for the most in a game by the ‘Jackets this season…MSUB won the season series against the Wolves 6-2…the ‘Jackets have won seven of their last eight games and nine of their last 11 overall.

NEXT UP: The regular season concludes this week, as MSUB hosts Saint Martin’s University in a four-game GNAC series at Dehler Park. Doubleheaders are set for Thursday and Friday at 1 p.m. Mountain time, with all four games featuring live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics through MSUB’s Stretch Internet portal here.

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