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Jackets win GNAC Tourney opener, 10-2 - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Jackets win GNAC Tourney opener, 10-2

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Cody Cooper became just the third player in history to reach 100 strikeouts in a season, pitching into the 9th and fanning seven Thursday in MSUB's 10-2 win over Western Oregon to open the GNAC Championships.

The Yellowjackets scored a run in the first and four more in the second to establish command, and Cooper cruised through the Wolves’ lineup in one of his strongest efforts of the year. Adam Cox went 3-for-3 with a two-run home run and three RBIs, and Colter Sternhagen and Luke Reinschmidt each had doubles to pace the ‘Jackets offensively.

“After we got some runs early for Coop, you could just see him relax,” said MSUB head coach Rob Bishop. “Coop had really good stuff today. We had some guys step up today, and we just need to keep doing what we are doing.”

MSUB (30-19) will challenge No. 1 seed and host teams Northwest Nazarene University Thursday evening at 7 p.m., but is already guaranteed a berth in Friday’s championship game with the win. Western Oregon fell to 29-22 with the loss, and needs a win over Northwest Nazarene in a game starting at 3:30 p.m. to avoid elimination.

“I felt really comfortable out there going into the game, and my offense did the work for me,” Cooper commented. “Everyone is just playing loose right now. Once we realized we were playing tight, and loosened up, we started playing some good baseball.”

The Wolves started the game with back-to-back bunts, but Cooper worked around a pair of baserunners with two strikeouts to end the first inning.

Reinschmidt started the bottom of the frame with a single, and Cox brought him around with his first hit of the day. Cooper responded with a 1-2-3 top of the second, and MSUB rewarded him with an outburst at the plate. Durbin had an RBI-single and the ‘Jackets took advantage of a pair of errors by WOU to score four in the second frame.

WOU starter Darrien Moran found command in the middle innings, as he set down the ‘Jackets in order in the third and fourth innings. Cooper matched the left hander however, retiring 11 in-a-row into the seventh inning. Cox lifted his eighth home run of the year over the fence in right field in the bottom of the fifth, as the ‘Jackets secured a 7-0 lead.

With two outs in the seventh, WOU got onto the scoreboard as Forrest Garcia ripped an RBI-single into right field. Cooper finished the frame with a strikeout however, and the ‘Jackets added three more in the bottom of the inning. Sternhagen had the big swing of the bat in the frame, lining a two-run single to right to put the game out of reach.

Consecutive hits by WOU in the ninth drove Cooper from the game with one out, as he handed the ball to fellow junior Bryon Baker to finish.

Garcia finished the game 2-for-4 and was the only Wolf to have multiple hits. Moran had two strikeouts and two walks, allowing 10 runs on eight hits in 8 1/3 innings. Jacob Fricke tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings to finish the game for the Wolves.

MSUB’s infield stayed busy in the game, with Sternhagen making eight plays at second and senior shortstop Corey Morris handling six chances up the middle. Durbin also had three assists from third base, and the ‘Jackets played clean defense with no errors.

Cooper, who entered the game with a GNAC-best 99 strikeouts on the year, upped his total to 106 and now has the second-most strikeouts in a single season in conference history. The all-time record is 116 strikeouts, held by Northwest Nazarene University’s Roger Evenson in 2005.

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