Championship Run Earns MSUB Softball Team of the Week
Cam Cassinelli was named the tournament MVP after hitting .500 and driving in seven runs on four extra-base hits.
Cam Cassinelli was named the tournament MVP after hitting .500 and driving in seven runs on four extra-base hits.

Monday, May 4, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. – The third-seeded Montana State Billings softball team only needed three games to win the GNAC Championship, propelling the Yellowjackets to Red Lion Hotels Team of the Week honors.

Entering the tournament with a 26-21 record, the Yellowjackets faced three higher-seeded teams to claim the GNAC title and earn an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.

On Thursday, MSUB faced the No. 2 Western Washington Vikings, who beat them twice in the regular-season. MSUB had both sides of the plate working for them in the opening game, scoring six runs on six hits for the 6-1 victory.  

Adding runs in the second and third innings, MSUB exploded for four runs in the fifth thanks to an RBI-single from first baseman Emily Osborn and a three-run home run from freshman Cam Cassinelli. Pitcher Jessyka MacDonald threw a complete-game while giving up just four hits.

Advancing in the winner’s bracket, the Yellowjackets next challenge would be top-seeded Saint Martin’s. SMU owned a series record of 3-1 against MSUB this season, two wins coming while the GNAC co-Player of the Year, Sam Munger, was pitching.

MSUB struck first with an RBI-single from cleanup hitter Brittney Sanders, but SMU responded with a Munger home run to right center for a Saint 2-1 lead after the first inning.

The Yellowjackets added another run in the third as the Yellowjackets GNAC co-Player of the Year, Taylor Hoke, singled to right field scoring leadoff hitter Bella Rovens. SMU would add another run in the fourth, however, tying the game at three.

With two-outs and no-one on in the sixth, Cassinelli hit what would be her biggest home run of the year, launching a rocket over the center field fence over 225-feet away. MacDonald would throw another complete-game as MSUB would go onto win the matchup 4-3.

The championship game Saturday would be a rematch of opening game of the tournament, MSUB verse WWU. An Osborn single would put the Yellowjackets up 2-1 in the top of the third, but the Vikings put four on the board in the bottom half of the inning.

Entering the top of the fifth with a 5-2 deficit, the Yellowjackets seemed destined for a second championship game in the double-elimination tournament. The combo of Aubrey Conceicao and Cassinelli prevented that from happening.

Conceicao singled to center scoring Sanders in the fifth. Cassinelli would hit a double two-batters later to score Conceicao, moving within one run after five.

After the Vikings failed to score in the bottom half of the fifth, the ‘Jackets would load the bases in the sixth for Conceicao. The senior would hit a bases-clearing double to center field to put MSUB back on top. Cassinelli would bring home Conceicao again, this time on a sacrifice fly. By the end of the sixth, MSUB had not only erased its three-run deficit, but gained an 8-5 advantage heading into the last inning of play.

The Yellowjackets would score another run in the seventh and MacDonald would work a quick bottom-half of the inning for the win and MSUB’s first-ever GNAC Championships title, a 9-5 win over WWU.

Cassinelli was named the tournament MVP after hitting the game-winning home run in game three and driving in two runs in the championship game. Cassinelli would hit .500 for the tournament, scoring two runs while driving in seven. Six of her seven RBI’s would come from four extra-base hits, including two home runs and two doubles.

MacDonald would be the only MSUB player to pitch in the series, throwing three complete games and striking-out 10 batters. She recorded all three wins for the ‘Jackets bringing her season total to 19.

Earning an automatic berth into the NCAA West Regional, the Yellowjackets were selected as an eight-seed and play the top-seeded, and fifth-ranked, Cal State Monterey Bay Otters Friday at 5:30 p.m. in Seaside Calif.

The Yellowjackets and the Otters have played once this season with MSUB taking a 3-0 victory in the Tournament of Champions at the end of March.