GERING, NE – The Western Nebraska Pioneers used a big fifth inning to capture a 6-3 victory over Hastings on Thursday night and capture a series sweep.
After taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Pioneers (21-10) broke things open with a four-run fifth. Facing Trey Kissack of the Sodbusters (13-19) for the third time this season, the Pioneers started the scoring with a Colin Ludwig RBI single. A batter later, Lane Harvey ripped an RBI double, and after a walk, Harvey and Beau Bratton came home to score on a double down the line by Brandon Bohning.
That was more than enough for the Pioneers pitching staff. Jack Sinclair worked five effortless innings before running into trouble in the sixth. He walked three batters, including one with the bases loaded, and hit one in the sixth. He was also hurt by his defense, as Andrew Bates lost a ball in the lights that could have ended the inning, but instead scored two runs. In all, Sinclair showed promise, finishing with five strikeouts and four walks over six innings of work (his longest start of the year) while only allowing three hits and three runs.
Behind him, the Pioneer bullpen was rock solid. Alex Jorgensen, Cameron Richman, and Jeff Hakanson all tossed scoreless innings, in the 7th, 8th, and 9th respectively. All struck out two batters, while only Richman (an infield single) and Hakanson (walk) allowed baserunners. Hakanson earned his fifth save of the summer.
The Pioneers battled for one more run in the seventh inning off of the Sodbusters’ Ryan Krolikowski, as Travis Turney hit a sacrifice fly that scored Ludwig. Turney also made a stellar diving catch to finish off the victory in the ninth.
Sodbusters starter Trey Kissack, in his first start away from home this summer, allowed five runs on four walks and eight hits over 4.2 innings while striking out five, taking his first loss of the summer. Sinclair earned his second victory with the Pioneers.
The Pioneers, now with a 7 game lead on the Clark Division, open up a two-game set with the Badlands Big Sticks to close out the first half of the season. Jonny Petsch gets the ball in game one on Friday, which begins at 6:35 PM MST.