Northwest Nazarene came up big Friday by going small.
The Crusaders used a series of well-timed bunts to sweep Montana State Billings in a GNAC baseball doubleheader at Dehler Park.
The Crusaders (27-11, 12-10) won 7-4 and 6-0. The teams play another doubleheader today starting at 1 p.m. at Dehler.
The Yellowjackets (14-19, 5-13) have lost six straight. It was their first shutout loss since a 4-0 March 13 loss at Saint Martin’s.
NNU put down four bunts in the first game, reaching base three times and having the batters eventually score two runs. The Crusaders added three bunts in the night cap, reaching base twice and one producing an RBI.
“They have great team speed,’’ acknowledged MSUB head coach Rob Bishop of NNU. “We worked on bunting and bunt defense all week. There were three plays that we didn’t make and it cost us.”
One was a bunt in the eighth inning that dropped a foot in front of home plate. “That was a double play,’’ Bishop said.
The Crusaders broke a 3-3 tie with a four-run ninth inning. The inning included two bunts, one misplayed for an error. But the big blow was Derek Bettinson’s three-run home run to right field.
The late NNU rally overshadowed a strong pitching performance by Yellowjacket starter Kody Kennedy.
The left-handed senior from Butte pitched no-hit ball through five innings, putting down NNU 1-2-3 in the first, third and fifth innings.
“Kody primarily relies on a good moving fastball,’’ Bishop said. “And he pounded it in the zone today. They knew he was throwing it and there was nothing they could do.”
Sean McDonald got NNU’s first hit, a sharp single into leftfield between the third baseman and shortstop. Teammate would Ryan VanBeek had a two-RBI single a few batters later. Kennedy got out of the inning when his defense turned a 4-6-3 double play, started by Dillon Ness’ diving stop on a ground ball.
“Even after he had that one rough inning, Kody came back strong the next,’’ said Bishop.
Kennedy faced four batters in the seventh, fanning one and coaxing two pop-ups to first base. He came out of the game after giving up a walk to start the eighth.
“His pitch count was over 100,’’ Bishop explained. “It was time to get him out if we want him for the rest of the season.”
Kevin Zukaitis staked MSUB to a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning with a two-run home run to right field. The ball could be seen bouncing high in the parking lot. Jeff Ridgeway had a double and stand-up triple for the Yellowjackets, while Chris Stine also had two hits.
The Crusaders scored three times in the fourth inning and three in the sixth in the second game. Their three runs in the sixth came on just one hit as MSUB pitchers hit a batter to score a run and walked another to force in a score.
Four Yellowjacket pitchers combined for eight walks and just three strikeouts in the nightcap.
Justin Henry had two hits for the Crusaders, including a two-RBI single up the middle in the fourth inning. McDonald went the distance for NNU, scattering six hits, striking out three and walking just one.
NOTES: Zukaitis’ homer, his second of the season, was the first one for MSUB in a home game. ... McDonald, who played centerfield for NNU in the opener, twice robbed Yellowjacket designated hitter Jordan Kessler of potential hits. McDonald sprinted hard toward right field to make a leaping catch in the first inning and then snared a sinking line drive in the seventh inning. ... Blake Loran doubled in the fifth inning for MSUB’s only extra-base hit in the second game.