Wildcats blasts past Yellowjacks for doubleheader sweep
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As the ball left junior outfielder James Smith III’s bat, everybody around the CWU baseball field knew where the ball was going. Before the ball even cleared the left field wall, the dugout came to greet Smith for his walk-off home run.
That homerun was the end to an improbable two out, six run comeback to win the second game of the double header over Montana State University Billings (MSUB) 9-7.
“I just tried to get my hands in and put a good swing on it,” Smith said.
MSUB sophomore pitcher Steen Fredrickson threw an inside fastball to Smith, a pitch he was all over.
It “surprised me considering they were throwing a lot of off-speeds today,” Smith said.
CWU won 12-3 in the first game of the doubleheader.
Senior pitcher Jake Levin took the mound to start the game. He was battling a oblique injury all week and was a game time decision.
“I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get on the bump today,” Levin said. “Warmed up, started feeling good and everything was feeling all right.”
CWU gave Levin an early lead scoring two runs in the first inning.
Junior first basemen Ryan Myers led off the second inning with a home run to left field. Freshman catcher Andrew Schleusner doubled down the line to tie the game up at 2-2.
A single, walk and hit by pitch loaded up the bases for Levin. He got a fastball right down the middle from senior Cody Cooper, for a grand slam over the center field wall.
“I was mad about giving up those two runs … [I] got into a count where I figured a fastball was coming, I got the fastball [and] put a great swing on it,” Levin said.
After a solo home run by MSUB’s sophomore right fielder Jalen Garcia, the score was 6-3. After that final home run Levin was in cruise control.
“I was able to settle in and start executing my pitches better,” Levin said. “Had all my pitches working … once I started getting down in the zone everything clicked.”
Levin (5-1) pitched a complete game giving up three runs, five hits, seven strikeouts and three walks.
“Everytime he gets on the bump he goes out to compete,” Smith said.
CWU tacked on two runs in the fourth and four in the seventh.
Junior pitcher Mackenzie Gaul took the mound for the second game. Gaul’s pitching consists of his hat flying off on most of his pitches.
“It’s very unique,” Gaul said. “It’s a key for me if I’m finishing my pitches and doing everything I’m suppose to do.”
In the second inning, a hit by pitch and single put runners on first and second with one out. Gaul got out of the jam striking out the next two consecutive hitters.
MSUB junior third basemen Conner Linebarger doubled down the left field line, followed by nobody covering first base on the sacrifice bunt attempt. The next batter hit a dribbler where nobody failed to cover first base, again.
“We haven’t worked on our bunt defense in over a month,” Gaul said.
Gaul pitched five innings, giving up five runs on six hits. Striking out six with one walk.
“I felt okay early on, I lost control later in the game,” Gaul said.
Down 7-3 going into the seventh inning, a flyout and popup put CWU down to their final out.
Senior shortstop Kyle Stahl singled up the middle and stole second base, senior infielder Rory Graf-Brennen scored Stahl with a single and first basemen Dylan Freyre doubled to right-center field to score Graf-Brennen.
“They were good at-bats, all the way through that inning,” said head coach Desi Storey.