BILLINGS — The Montana State Billings baseball team is ready to keep chasing history.
The Yellowjackets, who won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament championship for the first time in program history on Friday, will play No. 3 seed Point Loma Nazarene (30-19) in the opening round of the NCAA Division II West Region Baseball Championships on Thursday in La Jolla, California, on the campus of University of California San Diego.
The start time of the game is to be announced.
MSUB is 33-18 overall and the six seed.
"They are ready to go. We've had this goal in place since we arrived," said third-year Yellowjackets coach Aaron Sutton after a West Region Championships selection show watch party in the Glacier Room on the school's campus Sunday. "They are excited. This is the best part of the year. You work so hard and this is the reward. The gas is in the tank. It's time to go have fun."
The double-elimination regional will start on Thursday and end on Saturday.
The third team on the Jackets' side of the bracket (West Regional No. 2) is the host and No. 2 seed UC San Diego (35-12).
No. 1 seed Azusa Pacific (36-13) also earned hosting rights as the tournament is split into a pair of three-team brackets. The teams competing in West Regional No. 1 are No. 4 Cal St. Monterey Bay (35-21) and No. 5 Cal Poly Pomona (29-26). That competition is also Thursday through Saturday.
The winners of West Regional No. 1 and West Regional No. 2 will play in a best-of-three series the following week at the Super Regionals hoping to earn a place at the D-II College World Series in Cary, North Carolina.
Sutton said the Jackets are focused on the task at hand.
"It's simple. The pitchers have to throw strikes and the defense has to make the catch," he said. "Offensively, we have to find the barrels."
This year's Jackets have been an explosive bunch, setting the school single-season home run record. The team, after starting the year 0-11, rebounded to win its fourth GNAC regular-season title in the past five years.
"These guys have a lot of confidence and it's because they prepare so well," Sutton said. "These guys know deep down they've trained to be one of the best teams in the country and now they get to go play on a higher stage."
Daniel Cipriano was the GNAC player of the year and Sutton was honored as the league's coach of the year. Cipriano (1B), Matt Dillon (OF), Steen Fredrickson (P), Jalen Garcia (OF), Andrew Schleusner (DH) and Wyatt Setian (ss) were on the All-GNAC first team. Chris Arpan (3B) and Landon Peterson (C) were on the second team. Tyler Detloff (OF), Conner Linebarger (2B), Keven Mackintosh (P), Jarrod Molnaa (P) and Brooks Zimmer (P) were honorable mention.
"It's about the competition," Sutton said. "We work hard in practice to go win a championship and these guys are ready to do it."
NCAA D2 Baseball West Regional No. 2
Game 1: No. 6 Seed MSU Billings vs. No. 3 Seed Point Loma Nazarene
Game 2: Loser Game 1 vs. No. 2 Seed UC San Diego
Game 3: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner/Loser Game 2
Game 4: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3
Game 5: Winner Game 4 vs. Loser Game 4 (if necessary)