Western Oregon Splits to Stay One Up In Baseball Race
Mack Unruh led MSUB with three home runs and 12 RBI in series.
Mack Unruh led MSUB with three home runs and 12 RBI in series.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

BILLINGS, Mont. - Montana State Billings nearly pulled off the greatest comeback in GNAC history Sunday, but had to settle for a split of a four-game baseball series with first-place Western Oregon at Dehler Park.

The Yellowjackets rallied from a 18-2 deficit pulling within two runs (at 20-18 in the eighth inning) before succumbing to the Wolves 22-18 in the opening game of their doubleheader.   MSUB, however, bounced back to win the second game 9-6

The teams also split a pair of games on Saturday as MSUB won the opener 8-7 before the Wolves used a seven-run seventh inning to win the nightcap 12-10.

The split left Western Oregon (19-15, 14-6) one game ahead of Central Washington (11-5) in the conference race, while MSUB (14-21-1, 10-10) remained tied for third-place with Northwest Nazarene (17-16, 8-8). 

Only three teams will advance to the conference playoffs in May.

Central Washington and Northwest Nazarene begin a four-game series in Ellensburg Monday.  The Wildcats can move into a first-place tie with the Wolves with three victories.  The Crusaders, however, could move one game ahead of MSUB for the final playoff spot if they win three.

That makes it a very big series for all four squads.

Offense ruled the day in all four games at Billings as the teams combined for 92 runs.  Montana State Billings hit for a .385 team batting average, while Western Oregon batted .373.

A trio of players had huge weekends for the 'Jackets.

Second baseman Brody Miller batted .650. He had 13 hits in 20 at bats, including two home runs.  Miller also drove in 10 runs. Outfielder Drew Fosnes batted .600 (9 of 15) and had two home runs and nine RBI. 

Both Miller and Fosnes had five hits in Sunday's 22-18 loss becoming the third and fourth GNAC players during the past two weeks to have five-hit games.

Last week Kasey Bielec of Central Washington had a five-hit game against Western Oregon and Bobby Twedt of Saint Martin's had five hits against Northwest Nazarene.

MSUB designated hitter Mack Unruh had perhaps even more impressive numbers, at least from a power standpoint.  He had seven hits - three doubles, one triple and three home runs - in 17 at bats and had a series-high 12 runs batted in.

Austin Rue, meanwhile, went six for 16 extending his hitting streak to a conference season-best 16 games.  Three of his hits were doubles.

Matt Nylen paced Western Oregon with a .500 average (8 of 16).  He had one double and two home runs and drove in 10 runs.  Scott David had five hits in 11 at bats, scored six runs and drove in five, while Tim Rausch went seven for 16, including two doubles and two home runs and drove in eight runs.

Rausch's two-out, grand slam home run, which came after a MSUB error kept the inning alive, was the game-winner in Saturday's 12-10 Western Oregon victory. Blake Miller also finished the series with seven hits in 16 at bats and led all players in runs scored (9) and stolen bases (3).

MSUB 8, WOU 7: Rue's RBI double in the seventh gave the Yellowjackets an 8-4 lead scoring what turned out to be the eventual winning run.  Brody Miller had three hits to lead MSUB, while Nylen drove in three runs to pace the Wolves.

WOU 12, MSUB 10: Western Oregon trailed 9-2 after four innings, but scored three runs in the fifth and then put together five hits, including Rausch's grand slam, to win the game with a seven-run seventh. Brody Miller, Nylen and Rausch, who had five RBI, each had three hits.

WOU 22, MSUB 18: After an eight-run fifth and a two-run sixth staked Western Oregon to an 18-2 lead, MSUB scored six in the sixth, six  in the seventh and four in the eighth to make it interesting.  The Wolves had 22 hits, including four each by Scott David and Blake Miller.  David and Nylen each had four RBI.  Brody Miller and Fosness had five and four RBI with their five-hit games.  Colby Robison and Unruh, who went deep twice, also had four RBI each.

MSUB 9, WOU 6: Samuel Paterson had the best pitching performance of the series, scattering nine hits in a seven-inning complete game.  Unruh, meanwhile, drove in five runs, three with a first-inning triple and two with a fifth-inning double.  Rausch paced WOU with four hits, including a double and home run, and drove in three runs.