GERING, NE – In an absolute thriller, the Western Nebraska Pioneers battled back for seven runs in the last three innings to top the Hastings Sodbusters, 11-8, in Wednesday night’s series opener at Oregon Trail Park Stadium.
Trailing 8-5 heading to the bottom of the seventh inning, the Pioneers (20-10) exploded offensively against Sodbusters (13-18) reliever Donovan Meadows. Luther Woullard was hit by a pitch to lead off an inning in which the Pioneers batted around and scored five runs. Pinch-hitter Hobbs Nyberg had an RBI single to cut the Hastings lead to two, and a Lane Harvey sacrifice fly made it a 1-run game. A walk later, Brandon Bohning tripled to right-center field to give the Pioneers the lead.
The offensive explosion helped take Brandon Morse off the hook in what was another rough start for the young right-hander. Morse’s command and stuff were good, but he was ripped for three separate three-run home runs over his five innings of work. He allowed just three other hits and walked two while striking out five, but took a no-decision. Logan Gilbertson earned his fourth win of the season in relief.
Hastings got a weak pitching performance from starter Sam Colehower, who walked six batters over five innings of work, while allowing four runs on six hits with just one strikeout. He ran into big trouble in the fourth inning, when the Pioneers tacked on five consecutive singles to re-tie the game at four.
The Pioneers, who had gone nearly two weeks without a home run and nearly three weeks with a home run at home, got two no-doubt shots on Wednesday. Travis Turney hit a rocket over the right-field fence in the sixth inning, and Jack Pauley launched a missile to the deepest part of center field for insurance in the eighth. Cameron Richman closed down the Sodbusters with three strikeouts in the ninth to earn his third save.
The Pioneers will look for the two-game sweep of Hastings with game two on Thursday night. A 6:35 PM first pitch is scheduled, with Jack Sinclair set to take the ball for the Pioneers.