After a 20-0, 19-strikeout drubbing of Hastings on Tuesday, Western Nebraska Pioneers fans came to the ballpark in hopes of a little more excitement, and, of course, another Pioneers victory.
They got both when Western Nebraska rallied to a 3-2 win over the Sodbusters on a dramatic game-winning RBI-single by pinch-hitter Zack Peterson in the bottom of the ninth inning.
“I was just trying to hit a ball on the ground up the middle,” Peterson said. “That’s all I was trying to do. I knew that would score a run with guys on second and third, so anything on the ground would score them, pretty much.
“I was pumped. The crowd had momentum, the guys had momentum, we were going to get it no matter what,” he added. “If it wasn’t me, it was the guy behind me, so, I knew we’d get it.”
Plating two runs on a two-run double by Derek Hackman to score Drew Bailey and Grant Schmidt in the top of the third inning, the Sodbusters struck first and played solid defense behind pitcher Wesley Case throughout the first eight innings of play to shut down the Western Nebraska bats and quiet the Pioneer faithful at Oregon Trail Park Stadium.
Struggling to find any offense leading into the final at-bat of the night, head coach Jimmy Turk turned to his bench in order to get some fresh faces in the box against Case, who had given up just four hits and a walk with seven strikeouts.
Turk was pleased with the resiliency of his team and rated the win right up there with some of the most dramatic wins he has seen since he has coached in the Pioneers Organization.
“That’s definitely up there. It was fun at the end,” he said. “I’m glad we were competitive and I’m glad we gave ourselves a chance at the end. Obviously when you come out on top and you can walk-off and win a game it feels really good, so it makes it a lot of fun. We hadn’t done a lot up to that point, so it definitely made the game a lot more fun. I’m just glad they battled back and we were resilient enough to pull it out at the end. Hopefully that gives us some momentum going forward.”
The bottom of the ninth started off in Hastings’ favor when Case got pinch-hitter Will Olson to fly out to right field for the first out. However, Carter Dobrinski reached in the next at-bat after getting hit by the pitch to give the Pioneers some life. Jordan Rathbone, who also entered the game late in the contest, singled to put the tying run at first base.
First baseman Collin Ludwig came to the plate looking to drive in Dobrinski and Franky Montesino, who was running for Rathbone, reached after Case hit the second-year Pioneer in the back to load the bases for Alonso Bibiano.
Bibiano warmed up the Pioneer faithful and brought them back through the turnstiles with a laser passed the shortstop to drive in Dobrinski and Montesino knotting the score at 2-2.
Ludwig, who moved up to third on the Bibiano single, scored on the Peterson ground ball to finish the walk-off win and improve the Pioneers to 11-4 on the season.
Bryce Mackey picked up the win on the hill for the Pioneers, striking out two and giving up just one hit in one inning of work. Blake Svoboda, Bradley Morgan and Joseph Solomon combined for two runs on four hits with 14 strikeouts in the contest. Svoboda earned seven strikeouts through 4 1/3 innings, while Solomon added five strikeouts in two innings pitched.
Case finished with seven strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings, while giving up three runs on seven hits.
“Hat’s off to their pitcher. He threw really well,” Turk said of Case. “He kept us off balance and he just did a really good job and our guys struggled with their ABs, so hat’s off to him.”
Western Nebraska was led offensively by Bibiano, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI.
The Pioneers will play the third game of a six-game homestand on Thursday night against the Sodbusters. First pitch slated for 6:35 p.m.
Sodbusters 003 000 000 — 2 4 1
Pioneers 000 000 003 — 3 7 3
WP — Bryce Mackey, LP — Wesley Case
2B — Hastings (Derek Hackman)