A few well-placed bunts and costly fielding mistakes doomed the Western Nebraska Pioneers in a 2-1 loss on the road against the Casper Horseheads on Friday night in the first ever game in team history for both clubs.
Casper (1-0) jumped out to an early lead in the bottom of the first inning when Brady Van Hook grounded into a double play with runners on the corners to score his college teammate Dalton Mauldin. It was a pitchers duel throughout for most of the game, with the Pioneers (0-1) not tacking on a run until the fifth inning off of Horseheads starter Austin Crowson.
Crowson went 6 innings, allowing 3 hits, just the one run (a Robert Parea RBI groundout following a Brandon Bachar triple), with 5 strikeouts and no walks to earn his first victory of the season. Curtis Stahlecker pitched the final three innings for Casper, allowing just 1 baserunner (a single) and striking out five to earn his first save of the season.
The Horseheads used small ball to take the lead in the sixth. Pioneers reliever Dagin Renck hit Brady Van Hook, who advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt and then reached third safely on a fielder’s choice. A ground ball was hit to Bachar at shortstop, and he chose to throw the ball to third to try and get a tag play at the bag, but Van Hook was called safe underneath Colin Ludwig’s tag. Van Hook would then score on a slow sacrifice bunt down the first base line that Pioneers first baseman Nolan Metcalf tried to force foul, but it stayed fair and scored a run.
Pioneers starter Conner Deeds left the game in a 1-1 tie and took a no-decision on the night; the right-hander allowed 3 hits and 1 run along with 4 walks and 6 strikeouts over five innings. Renck took the loss despite allowing zero hits and zero walks. Brandon Morse pitched the final two innings for the Pioneers, striking out 4 and allowing just two hits, with zero walks.