A rematch of last year’s Expedition League championship again went in favor of the Western Nebraska Pioneers in the opener of a three-game series with the Badlands Big Sticks on Friday night at Oregon Trail Park Stadium in Gering.
Ty Bothwell struck out 11 on the mound as the Pioneers handed the Big Sticks a 5-3 setback.
This weekend’s series is a showdown between the two top teams in the Expedition League. Western Nebraska, which leads the Clark Division, improved to 22-7. The Big Sticks are on top of the Lewis Division with a 23-10 mark.
Bothwell, who improved his pitching record to 5-1, supplied the Pioneers with another dominating start. The freshman from Indiana University allowed just one earned run on three hits in 5 2/3 innings of work.
The Western Nebraska bullpen again did its job in relief of Bothwell. Logan Gilbertson, Joseph Solomon and Landon Odom combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief. Odom was credited with the save. Solomon struck out three in his one inning of work, while Gilbertson fanned one.
The Pioneers got on the scoreboard early as Zach Peterson scored on a single by Jacen Roberson in the bottom of the first.
Badlands struck for three runs, including two unearned, in the top of the third to grab a 3-1 lead. However, the lead was short-lived as the Pioneers plated a pair of runs in the home half of the inning to pull even. Jordan Rathbone did the damage as he singled home Peterson and Alonso Gambill.
Western Nebraska went back in front for good in the fourth. Carter Dobrinski’s solo home run gave the Pioneers a 4-3 advantage. Kole Kaler then scored an insurance run on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Will Olson.
The Pioneers totaled 11 hits in the contest. Peterson led the way by going 3-for-4. Roberson and Dobrinski followed with two hits each. Roberson finished with a double. Gambill reached base on three walks.
Western Nebraska tallied four steals in the game. Peterson had two of them, while Gambill and Roberson each recorded one.
The teams will play game two of the series on Saturday with the first pitch set for 6:35 p.m.
Big Sticks (23-10) 003 000 000 — 3 5 1
Pioneers (22-7) 102 200 00x — 5 11 1
WP — Ty Bothwell. LP — Nick Flesher. S — Landon Odom.
HR — Pioneers (Carter Dobrinski). 3B — Big Sticks (Sanders). 2B — Big Sticks (Gross). Pioneers (Jacen Roberson).