GERING, NE – Excitement levels were high for Sunday’s series opener at Oregon Trail Park Stadium against the league-leading Souris Valley Sabre Dogs, and the Pioneers and Dogs delivered a thriller in the series opener, with the Pioneers winning a back-and-forth 12-10 contest on Sunday night.
Souris Valley’s high-flying offense took an early lead on the Pioneers in the top of the first inning, with a Clay Ashworth two-run single off of Jonny Petsch capping off a four-run inning. The Pioneers had never came back from a deficit larger than three, but never let themselves out in the early goings. After trading runs with Souris Valley in the fourth and fifth innings, the third time around the order against Sabre Dogs starter Seth Kuykendall did the trick.
The bottom of the sixth inning got hectic with a two-run home run from Colin Ludwig to make it a 3-run ballgame. From there, Western Nebraska poured it on, with Brandon Bohning doubling home two runs and Travis Turney bringing one home on a bloop single to tie the game. It took the load off the shoulders of Petsch, who allowed six earned runs on three walks and just one strikeout over five innings of work.
The Pioneers quickly took their first lead in the bottom of the seventh when Ludwig hit his second homer of the game, becoming the first player in team history with a multi-homer game. Another run came across on a Travis Turney infield single to make it a two-run Pioneer lead. In the top of the eighth, Jimmy Turk turned to trusted reliever Cameron Richman, but he struggled, coughing up the lead by allowing three runs on four hits to a tough Sabre Dogs attack.
Trailing by one, the Western Nebraska offense picked up Richman in the bottom of the eighth off of Sabre Dogs reliever Alex Hay. After setting down the first two men he faced, Hay walked Beau Bratton and allowed him to advance to second on a stolen base. A batter later, Esai Hernandez singled Bratton home to tie the game. Esai then scored on a single by Lane Harvey, and a wild pitch brought Harvey home to give the Pioneers a 2-run cushion.
Jeff Hakanson closed it down with a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixth save of the summer. Hay took the loss for Souris Valley in his first pitching performance of the summer. Sabre Dogs starter Seth Kuykendall allowed seven runs over six innings on nine hits, two walks and five strikeouts.
The series will conclude on Monday with a 6:35 PM start time. Cal Beardsley will take the ball for the Pioneers.