Montana State Billings Set To Build On Success At Home
Casey Merritt leads Montana State Billings in batting average and has had four multi-hit games in the Yellowjackets' last five games.
Casey Merritt leads Montana State Billings in batting average and has had four multi-hit games in the Yellowjackets' last five games.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Montana State Billings ended last week on a three-game winning streak to claim a winning record in conference play. The three wins came in the Yellowjackets’ home-opening series.

Montana State Billings continues its homestand with a four-game set against Northwest Nazarene on Friday. They’re the second and third-ranked teams in the conference standings going into the series with NNU holding a 1.5-game lead.

Saint Martin’s has a four-game series agaisnt Western Oregon that is set to begin on Saturday. After three series, the Saints find themselves a game behind fourth place with the top four teams in the conference advancing to the GNAC Championships.

Western Oregon enters the series with one of the toughest players to strikeout in its lineup. Brandon Pradere has not been struck out once this year in 51 plate appearances. He is one of nine players in Division II to have never been struck out this year. Elsewhere in the GNAC, Concordia will travel to Central Washington for a Saturday-Sunday series.


Billy King, Northwest Nazarene
1B/OF • 6-2 • Sr. • Anacortes, Wash.

King went 8 for 16 with three home runs, two doubles and four RBIs as Northwest Nazarene took three of four games from Saint Martin’s last week. He went 3 for 4 with a home run, double, three RBIs and a run scored in Saturday’s opener, an 11-8 victory. He then went 3 for 5 with a homer, two RBIs and two runs in the 13-5 win in the nightcap.

Also Nominated:
Austin Feist (Saint Martin’s), Kade Hall (Montana State Billings).

Mackenzie Gaul, Central Washington
RHP • 6-0  • Jr. • Winlock, Wash.

Gaul threw his third complete-game seven-inning shutout of the season to lead the Wildcats to a 4-0 win over Western Oregon on Sunday. He allowed just four hits while striking out one. Gaul’s performance brought his ERA this season down to 1.70 and gives him four wins this season. Gaul also ranks seventh in Division II in complete games.

Also Nominated:
Nick Bland (Northwest Nazarene), Bryon Baker (Montana State Billings), Ryan Dorney (Saint Martin’s).


• The Wildcats won the first two games of their series with Western Oregon before dropping both games in Monday’s doubleheader.
• Dylan Freyre went 5 for 8 in the first two games of the series to push his batting average above .500 after 16 games. He then went 2 for 7 in the two losses bringing his batting average down to .485 which still leads the GNAC by a large margin.
• Mackenzie Gaul picked up his fourth win of the season with his third complete-game shutout in seven innings. His three shutouts ties the GNAC single season record set twice by Western Oregon pitchers Luke Holscher and Grady Wood.
• Gaul and Freyre both lead the GNAC in the primary individual categories. Freyre’s batting average of .485 is .088 better than anyone else in the conference. Gaul’s 1.70 ERA in five outings narrowly leads the GNAC as well.
• Connor Plaisance leads the GNAC in doubles with nine and also has a GNAC-best 14 extra-base hits. Over half of his hits have gone for extra bases.
• James Smith has hit four home runs and driven in a team-best 15 runs while scoring 13 times himself. He has started all 22 games in left field.
• Jake Levin has a 1.89 ERA with a 3-1 record. He has thrown 38 innings in six outings and struck out 24 batters. In the series opener against WOU, Levin threw six innings with two runs allowed and four strikeouts to earn the win.
• This week, Central Washington will host Concordia in a four-game series that starts on Saturday.

• Concordia won one of four games against Montana State Billings over the weekend. The Cavaliers are now 5-16 this year with a 3-8 record in conference play.
• Tyler Charlton picked up his first win of the year in the series opener, throwing seven innings with six runs allowed and one strikeout.
• James Brooks threw the final two innings of the game, facing the minimum six batters with three strikeouts, a flyout and two groundouts to earn his second save of the season.
• The Cavaliers scored 11 runs in the victory with Ben Koerner driving in three of those runs on two hits, including his second double of the season.
• Eddie Vasquez continued his hot hitting streak, going 2 for 4 with three RBIs and a home run. It was his second home run of the season and gives him eight RBIs as well.
• Cole Crosby leads the team in batting average at .308 with four doubles and two triples. He also has an on-base percentage of .403 and has come around to score 11 times, which both lead the team.
• Concordia will play at Central Washington this week with a Saturday-Sunday four-game series. The Cavaliers went 2-6 against the Wildcats last year, but they only played two games in Ellensburg, Wash.

• Montana State Billings won three games in its home-opening series against Concordia. After dropping the first game, 11-6, the Yellowjackets won three in a row to move into third place in the GNAC standings.
• Bryon Baker threw another complete game to earn his third win of the season. He allowed just two earned runs in seven innings with five strikeouts in the 5-4 victory. His earned run average is now 1.71, which is second-best in the GNAC.
• The Yellowjackets won on a pinch-hit RBI-single by Andrew Schleusner in the bottom of the seventh inning. It was MSUB’s second one-run victory of the season.
• Zach Robinson scored the game-tying run after reaching on a walk. He now has a team-best on-base percentage of .443 and has scored 19 runs, which leads the GNAC.
• Though the Yellowjackets rank fifth in the conference in batting average, they have scored the second most runs in the conference due in large part to their 18 home runs.
• Kade Hall has been the Yellowjackets’ primary source of power with four home runs and 20 RBIs. His .620 slugging percentage ranks third in the conference.
• Casey Merritt leads the team in batting average at .343 with 21 singles this year. He has recorded 11 multi-hit games and done so in four of the last five games.
• Cody Cooper struckout six batters in his start to move into a tie for sixth place in GNAC history for career strikeouts with 185.
• Montana State Billings continues its eight-game homestand, hosting Northwest Nazarene this weekend with a four-game series that begins on Friday.

• Northwest Nazarene won three of four games against Saint Martin’s before dropping both games of a non-conference series against Lewis-Clark State on Tuesday and Monday.
• The Crusaders scored a combined 48 runs in their last four games. They have scored a total of 133 runs this season which is the most in the GNAC.
• Billy King was a big part of the Crusaders’ offensive output, going 10 for 23 with five home runs in the six games. He has hit a home run in each of the last four games and has an extra-base hit in each of the last six games. He was also named the GNAC Player of the Week.
• Ross Clevenger has thrown a team-best 32.1 innings this year with a 3.62 ERA. He has picked up two wins and two losses along with one no-decision.
• Brett Nielsen has seven doubles this season, which leads the Crusaders. He also leads the team in batting average this year at .397.
• Senior Andrew Helmstadter has now played in 174 career games, cracking the top 20 of the GNAC all-time list. He also scored his 102nd career run to crack that top-20 list. Helmstadter made his way onto a third top-20 list with his 174th career hit. He also ranks 13th in RBIs with 105 and seventh in doubles with 45.
• Nick Bland has made eight relief appearances this year, throwin a combined 10.1 innings with just nine hits and two earned runs allowed. He has two saves and a 1.74 ERA.
• The Crusaders will travel to Billings, Mont. to play the Yellowjackets. The Crusaders are second in the GNAC standings and hold a 1.5-game lead over the Yellowjackets.

• The Saints won the first game against Northwest Nazarene last week before dropping the final three games of the series.
• Both of Friday’s games were decided by one run with SMU winning the opener 6-5 before NNU won the nightcap 2-1.
• Aaron Shoup earned the win in the opener, throwing 6.1 innings with four earned runs allowed and three strikeouts. It was his first win of the season.
• Steven Sordahl went 3 for 5 in the win with two RBIs in the series opener. Both of those RBIs came on a fourth-inning double that gave the Saints a 4-0 lead. Sordahl leads the team in batting at .343 with five doubles and 10 RBIs in 17 games.
• Ryan Dorney took another tough-luck loss in the second game of the series. His record is 0-4, but he has the third-best ERA in the GNAC at 1.85. The NNU pitching staff allowed just one run for the Saints when Dorney was on the mound.
• Adam Eskil is batting .314 this year with a team-best three home runs and 15 RBIs. He now ranks third in the conference in RBIs.
• Eskil also has three saves in six relief appearances this season. He has a 3.00 ERA with 11 strikeouts against 27 batters faced.
• The Saints will play against Western Oregon at Ravensdale, Wash. due to rain conditions that have ruined the Saints’ home field. Saint Martin’s still has not played a single home game yet this year.

• The Wolves had their six-game winning streak snapped by Central Washington on Saturday, but bounced back with a pair of wins on Sunday to split the series with the Wildcats.
• Western Oregon is now receiving votes in the NCBWA West Region poll. The Wolves have the eighth-best winning percentage in the region.
• The third game of the series was a pitching dual. Craig Grubbe got a no-decision despite throwing seven shutout innings. Freshman Kade Mechals earned the win in relief with two hitless innings to close out the 1-0 victory.
• The Wolves’ game-winning run was a walk-off sacrifice fly by Jacob Martinez to drive home Cody Dykstra for an unearned run after recording just five hits all game as a team.
• The Wolves’ offense is led by Justin Waken, who is batting .375 with an on-base percentage of .468 this year. He has scored and driven in five runs this year.
• Brandon Pradere is one of Division II’s toughest batters to strikeout. In 51 plate appearances, he hasn’t been struck out once. He is one of nine players in Division II among qualifiers that hasn’t struck out once yet.
• Nyles Nygaard is tied with Martinez for the most RBIs on the team. Both players have driven in nine runs and started all 14 games for the Wolves.
• Western Oregon will return to Monmouth this week to play against Central Washington. The Wolves won seven of eight games against the Wildcats last year, but only edged CWU by one game in the final GNAC standings for a spot in the GNAC Championships.
• Grubbe now has a team-best 2.55 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 17.2 innings pitched. He has won a game and taken two no-decisions in his three starts.
• The Wolves will play SMU in Ravensdale, Wash. on Saturday and Sunday.