LACEY, Wash. — The Montana State Billings baseball program reached a milestone on Saturday, winning its first Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular-season championship.
The Yellowjackets defeated Saint Martin’s 9-1 and 5-0 in a doubleheader to sweep the four-game weekend series and clinch hosting rights for the GNAC championship tournament, which will be held Thursday and Friday at Dehler Park in Billings.
The Yellowjackets allowed just one earned run in the four-game sweep of Saint Martin's, and the pitching staff gave up only two runs total while being supported by 21 runs of offense. It was MSUB’s sixth consecutive series victory.
The Jackets entered Saturday in a tie with Western Oregon at the top of the GNAC standings. Western Oregon lost Game 1 of its doubleheader against Northwest Nazarene in 12 innings, which gave MSUB its opportunity.
"I don't know if it has really sunk in yet," Jackets coach Rob Bishop said. "My favorite part is watching how guys respond, and seeing a dogpile somewhere on the field is the best feeling in the world for a coach.
In Game 1, Tanner Johnson pitched into the eighth inning, striking out five and walking two while scattering 10 hits and allowing one run. Lee Busto shut down SMU over the final two innings with two strikeouts and no walks, solidifying Johnson's sixth win of the season.
Six Yellowjackets had multiple hits in Game 1, and Trevor Nix and Luke Reinschmidt each had four hits on the day. Nix, the reigning National Collegiate Baseball Writers' Association West Region player of the week, hit his second home run of the series and drove in a pair of runs.
Jake Mills threw six innings in relief to win Game 2, striking out five and walking one as he capped off an historic pitching weekend.
MSUB turned six double plays in the series, five of which ended innings and two of which ended games.
“The best part about this team is how loose they are, and they bring intensity and play the game hard,” Bishop said. “We didn't see anyone trying to do more than what they were capable of. Everyone played their game. It was quite a series."