Austin Rue could have taken his sweet time around the basepaths.
He could have slowed down his jog, soaking up every emotion, every cheer, of the moment.
There was just one problem, according to Rue.
“I don’t do this enough to soak it up,’’ admitted the senior left fielder.
Rue’s eighth-inning, three-run home run lifted the Montana State Billings baseball team to an improbable 13-11 win over Northwest Nazarene in the first game of Friday's doubleheader at Dehler Park.
The Yellowjackets (10-15-1) were a model of efficiency in the second game, needing just three hits to clip the Crusaders 5-4 to complete the sweep.
“Two completely different games,’’ said MSUB coach Rob Bishop.
The teams play again on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m. at Dehler Park. The Yellowjackets have now won seven of their last eight games.
The teams combined for 24 runs and 30 hits in MSUB’s first home game of the season. There were 10 extra-base hits — seven doubles, two triples and Rue’s homer. Rue also had an RBI triple in the seventh inning.
The Yellowjackets trailed 5-0 before the first inning was done and trailed 11-5 after six innings.
“At that point, all we’re trying to do is make them go to their bullpen and trying to be competitive,’’ said Bishop.
MSUB scored four runs in both the seventh and eighth innings to rally for the win.
“That shows what kind of team we have,’’ Rue said. “We just kept grinding at it. Everybody stayed with it. Nobody panicked. We didn’t give away at-bats.”
MSUB was trailing 13-10 when Rue came to the plate. Pinch-runner Justin Harcharik was on third base and Bryce Todd was on first.
Before Rue settled in, NNU changed pitchers, moving Jon Matos from third base to the mound.
“With a runner on third, I was trying to work the pitcher,’’ said Rue. “I was looking for something to hit to the right side or I could elevate.”
You have free articles remaining.
He let the first two pitches go by, then put the third over the fence in right-center.
“It happened I got a pitch I really liked,’’ he said. “That was the pitch I was looking for. It felt good off the bat. I was thinking only to drive in the run and it kept carrying.”
It was Rue’s second home run of the season.
“I don’t hit home runs,’’ he said.
“That power surprised me,’’ Bishop added. “He earned it. Austin hit the ball hard.”
The rally was helped by pitchers Lucas Blehm and Travis Vincent, who shut down the Crusader bats in the final four innings.
“We were able to get the momentum back,’’ said Bishop.
Bryce Todd had three RBIs for the Yellowjackets in the first game, while Rue, Brody Miller, Drew Fosnes, Mack Unruh, Brad Birch and Todd had two hits apiece. Matos had three hits and four RBIs.
MSUB scored four runs in the first inning of the second game, highlighted by Unruh’s two-RBI double.
Colby Robison added a solo home run in the third.
Samuel Paterson pitched 6 2/3 innings of the seven-inning second game to earn his second win of the season. He allowed seven hits, struck out five and walked just one. Paterson threw 108 pitches, 67 for strikes.
Bobby Ragasa struck out the final NNU batter with two runners on two earn his second save of the year.
“He comes in and shuts the door,’’ said Rue. “He’s got a nasty two-seamer that makes hitters uncomfortable.”
Ragasa needed only 10 pitches to finish the game.
“Bobby, he’s tough to hit,’’ said Bishop. “He throws at a low angle and is a high-energy guy. He’s done a lot of good things for us over the last two seasons. Our bullpen did the job for us today.”
NOTES: NNU head coach Tim Onofrei was not at Friday’s games. He did not take the bus with the team and his flight out of Idaho was cancelled. Onofrei is expected to be in the Crusaders’ dugout on Saturday.