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It's Automatic: Top-Seeded MSUB Buzzes Way To Title
Montana State Billings went 3-0 in the tournament to earn its first-ever GNAC Championships title. Photo by Ellie Parker.
Montana State Billings went 3-0 in the tournament to earn its first-ever GNAC Championships title. Photo by Ellie Parker.
Conner Linebarger was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player after leading the Yellowjackets to the title. Photo by Ellie Parker.
Conner Linebarger was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player after leading the Yellowjackets to the title. Photo by Ellie Parker.

Friday, May 10, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. – One week removed from clinching the GNAC's regular-season title, Montana State Billings can now add another trophy to its collection. 

The Yellowjackets were able to complete a perfect trip to the GNAC Baseball Championships on Friday afternoon, outlasting No. 4 seed Saint Martin's for an 8-5 victory. The club finished 3-0 at the tournament, winning three games in three days to punch its ticket to the NCAA Division II West Regional. 

This is the first-ever automatic berth into a regional for the conference.

Second baseman Conner Linebarger was named the Most Valuable Player of the GNAC Championships, going 3 for 4 at the plate in Friday's game with one RBI and a run. He finished the tournament batting .600 while tallying seven RBI and two home runs in just three games.

Freshman Dylan Barkley led the way on the mound for MSUB. Barkley (7-2) got the start and went 6.2 innings without allowing an earned run before turning the ball over to his bullpen.

His offense helped him out early and often, beginning with a three-run homer off the bat of designated hitter Chris Arpan in the top of the first. They then extended that lead to 5-0 in the sixth as Linebarger tripled in a run and tallied one more on a misplayed ball in short right field.

The Saints would refuse to go quietly into the late afternoon, however, rallying for four runs in the eighth to turn a 7-1 deficit into a two-run game. The frame was highlighted by Austin Feist's second monster home run in as many days, but reliever Jared Winslow was able to work his way out of any further trouble to keep the Yellowjackets up by a pair of runs.

That advantage was extended to three in the top of the ninth, and Winslow worked a quick 1-2-3 bottom half of the frame to send his team into a frenzied dogpile in the middle of the infield at Porter Park. 

Montana State Billings has emerged victorious in 11 consecutive games, entering NCAA postseason play with a record of 33-18. The Yellowjackets will now await Sunday night's selection show to see where they are headed for next week's regional.

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