The first win in the history of the Western Nebraska Pioneers franchise will have to wait another night.
The Casper Horseheads rallied for 3 runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to top the Pioneers, 7-6, in the second game of a three game season-opening series at Mike Lansing Field in Casper on Saturday night. 12 free bases were the nail in the coffin for the Pioneers (0-2), who end the day as the only team in the Expedition League still without a victory.
The Horseheads (2-0) jumped out to an early lead in the first, loading the bases against Western Nebraska starter Matthew Delcambre and driving in a run on a bases-loaded walk by Connor Lowrie. Delcambre struggled with his command early, walking five in the first two innings, but settled in late, striking out the side to end the second and finishing with six punch-outs on the night.
The Pioneers took their first lead of the season in the third inning, pushing across three runs against Horseheads starter Tannar Galey, a Casper-area native. Esai Hernandez tripled to lead off the fame, and then scored after a throwing error by Galey on a pickoff attempt at first base. A Tanner Baker tripled scored Travis Turney, and then Baker would come home on a wild pitch.
Alex Jorgensen kept the Pioneers in the game throughout with three strong innings of relief out of the bullpen. He allowed just 2 hits and 1 run in his 3-plus innings of work, walking two and fanning five. The Pioneers tacked on two more in the fifth off of a Cooper Shearon home run (the first homer in team history).
Casper responded in the seventh with two runs off of Jorgensen and left-hander Teddy Broxterman, both of which scored after a sacrifice fly by Lowrie and a subsequent Turney throwing error. The Pioneers looked set to claim their first-ever victory after Turney singled home Hernandez in the top of the ninth to push the lead to 6-4.
However, the Horseheads loaded up the bases against Cameron Richman in the ninth, who walked the first three batters he faced before striking out Will Chambers and Lowrie back-to-back. Josh Overstreet was hit by a pitch to cut the deficit to one, and the game ended on a bloop single to left-center by Kanakai Gaughen that scored Charles Steale and Brady Van Hook to win the game.
Tommy Paul earned the win for Casper, improving his record to 1-0. He pitched the top of the ninth, allowing 1 run on 1 walk and two hits. Richman took the loss for the Pioneers after allowing 3 runs on 1 hit, 3 walks and 3 strikeouts in 1.2 innings.
Game 3 of the season opening series is scheduled for a 5:35 PM Mountain Time first pitch on Sunday night at Mike Lansing Field.