The Western Nebraska Pioneers had 13 hits and slugged four homers on Friday night to top the Badlands Big Sticks, 11-5, in Game One of the best of three Expedition League championship series at Oregon Trail Park Stadium.
The Pioneers (48-17) are now one win away from clinching the league’s first ever title after the win over the Big Sticks (34-32). After a scoreless first, Badlands took the lead in the top of the second inning when Kaleb Binstock singled home Drew Staley. The Pioneers then quickly answered back in the bottom half when Brandon Bohning hit a two run home run to make it 2-1 Pioneers, and then Will Olson followed with a solo shot to make it a 2-run game.
The Big Sticks answered right back in the top of the third with a three-spot of their own. Staley cleared the bases with a double off of Cal Beardsley to regain the lead for Badlands. That would be it, however, for runs off of Beardsley from the Badlands bats. In his final outing as a Pioneer, Beardsley allowed the four runs on four walks and five hits over 5.2 innings, while striking out eight to earn his seventh win of the summer.
The Pioneers took back the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth. After Lane Harvey hit an RBI infield single to tie the game, Luther Woullard, in his first game back with the Pioneers, socked a three-run shot to deep left field to give the Pioneers a 7-4 lead. Badlands starter Matt Graser allowed one more unearned run in the sixth to finish with a final line of seven earned runs on nine hits and two walks, with four strikeouts over 5.2 innings of work.
The Pioneer bullpen was strong as usual in the later innings to help close out the win. Cameron Richman, Teddy Broxterman, and Jeff Hakanson tossed 2.1 innings of scoreless relief. Logan Gilbertson allowed one solo homer, one single, and one hit by pitch, but struck out two in his inning of work. The Pioneers added more insurance in the eighth when Jack Pauley hit his 17th homer of the season, a two-run shot off of Badlands righty Dakota Weindel.
The Pioneers will look to clinch the league championship in front of their home crowd on Saturday night in Gering. First pitch is set for 6:35 PM MST.