GERING, NE – On a cloudy Wednesday night at Oregon Trail Park Stadium, the Western Nebraska Pioneers used a strong bullpen performance and another strong night from the offense to capture a series opening win over the Badlands Big Sticks, 16-8.
The Pioneers (36-14) needed both of those things to happen, as starting pitching was not as sharp as usual with Jeremiah Mauch struggling in his second start as a Pioneers and failing to complete the fourth inning. Behind him, the Pioneer bullpen took the reigns and allowed just two earned runs over the final 5.2 innings of work. Logan Gilbertson, the first man out of the bullpen, earned his league-leading ninth win of the season.
The Pioneers fell behind early to Badlands (28-24) in the top of the first inning when Auggie Francis’ soft fly ball landed just inside the foul line down the right field line, and then went down 3-0 on a two-run homer from DeAndre Pitts in the second. From there, they fought back and never trailed again after the third inning. Things got going with a six-run third, capped off by a two-run double from Alex Achtermann and two-run bloop single from Colin Ludwig.
Jack Pauley homered in his sixth straight game when he added a two-run shot in the fourth inning after a 12-pitch at-bat. The Pioneers added four more runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth to make it their fourth straight game scoring in double digits. Luther Woullard led the charge for the Pioneers, reaching in each of his six plate appearances, including four base hits. Achtermann also added three hits, including two doubles.
Gabe Lizarraga struggled as a starter for Badlands, earning his fifth loss of the season after he allowed ten runs (six earned) on nine hits and three walks with just two strikeouts in 4.1 innings of work. Dakota Weindel allowed six earned runs in 3.2 innings of relief.
The Pioneers will play a doubleheader with the Big Sticks on Thursday at Oregon Trail Park Stadium, with first pitch for game one set for 5:00 PM MST.