Yellowjackets, Saints Share Team of the Week
MSUB pitcher Cody Cooper (left) threw a complete game shutout while SMU's Carl Svanevik hit three home runs in their series sweeps.
MSUB pitcher Cody Cooper (left) threw a complete game shutout while SMU's Carl Svanevik hit three home runs in their series sweeps.

Monday, March 23, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. – Montana State Billings and Saint Martin’s each earned their first conference series sweeps of the season last weekend as the two baseball teams share Red Lion Hotels Team of the Week honors.

MSUB’s four-game sweep at Northwest Nazarene was the team’s first since 2009 while SMU’s four wins in Ellensburg against CWU was its first since the 2001 season.

Both teams made jumps in the standings with the victories as the Yellowjackets moved to second place while the Saints are only a half-game behind in third.

The Yellowjackets had an exciting first day of the series as they snatched a few victories away from the Crusaders.

In Game 1, MSUB was down 3-2 entering the top of the ninth. The Yellowjackets loaded the bases and tied the game as the Crusaders walked in a run. GNAC co-Player of the Week Kyle Durbin then ripped a double into left field, scoring two as MSUB took a 5-3 victory.

The Yellowjackets rallied late in the second game as well. After being shut out until the sixth inning, MSUB scored five runs in the top of the seventh - including another go-ahead two-run double from Durbin - to come back from a 3-1 hole to win 6-3.

These two victories Friday earned MSUB head coach Rob Bishop his 500th career victory. Bishop has been a baseball coach since 1999, splitting time between Huron University, Miles Community College and MSUB, where he has been the last five seasons.

Saturday’s games were all about pitching as the Yellowjackets claimed two shutouts over then the GNAC’s second-place team.

In the third game of the series, junior Tanner Johnson threw six shutout innings while striking out eight batters in MSUB’s 3-0 win. The fourth game was dominated by Bozeman native Cody Cooper. The right-hander earned his first win of the season in style, pitching a four-hit complete-game shutout in an 8-0 win for his team. Coopers performance also earned him GNAC Pitcher of the Week honors.

“I'm proud of our team and how we played after a tough weekend at Western (Oregon),” Bishop said. “During the GNAC season every team will have some ups and downs, but the teams that respond after a rough weekend are usually in the hunt at the end of the year.  I believe our best baseball is still ahead of us and look forward to the rest of the GNAC season.”

The Yellowjackets outscored the Crusaders 22-6 in the four-game sweep. Leading the charge offensively was Durbin who had three doubles and his first home run of the season. He also recorded seven RBIs. Luke Reinschmidt also had great series, hitting for a series-cycle while batting .600 for the weekend.

In Ellensburg, Saint Martin’s not only improved their standing in the conference with the four-game sweep at Central Washington, but also avenged four losses at CWU at the beginning of the season.

“We had the bye week last week and spent some time really focusing on getting some things straightened out,” Saint Martin’s head coach Ken Garland said.

In Game 1 Saturday, the Saints rallied for eight runs in the eighth and ninth innings for a 14-8 win. The 14 runs tied a season-high for the Saints as 10 of their runs came from the long ball. GNAC co-Player of the Week Carl Svanevik homered in the third and ninth innings while Jake Huskey recorded his only hit of the weekend in the eighth, a grand-slam.

In Game 2, the Saints scored three times in the top of the seventh to break a tie to claim a 7-4 victory. Svanevik added two more RBIs while Riley Moore pitched five-plus innings while striking out four in the win.

“He definitely has the ability to be that type of hitter week-in and week-out,” Garland said about Svanevik. “He is an impact player and is consistent. He is a very good contact hitter and has a good eye. His performance last week just shows all how much time he’s put in.”

The first game on the second day of the series featured a dual from the mound as both team’s pitchers threw complete games. SMU pitcher Zach Carter won the battle as he only allowed one run to cross the plate. Svanevik homered in the first inning and that was all the Saints had until another late run put SMU on top in the ninth for a 2-1 victory.

“He stepped up this week,” Garland said of Carter. “The time off let him focus on his mechanics and he competed on the mound. That’s the type of player he is, an all-conference pitcher.”

In the fourth game of the series, senior Chandler Tracy hit a go-ahead home run in the fifth to break a 3-3 tie and four pitchers combined for eight strikeouts as the Saints closed out a 5-3 win.

On the weekend, the Saints erupted for seven home runs and 36 hits while holding the Wildcats, last week’s ninth-ranked team in the NCBWA West Region poll, to a .250 batting average.

The Saints also benefited from a two-week break as they won their first series since sweeping Concordia in a mid-February home-away series.

Saint Martin’s and Montana State Billings will continue GNAC play this Friday and Saturday as the two teams oppose one another in the home opener for the Yellowjackets.