The Fremont Moo took down the Souris Valley Sabre Dogs on Monday night, and the loss for the Sabre Dogs meant the Badlands Big Sticks clinched the Lewis Division title in the Expedition League.
In the third year of the league, Badlands has won the division all three years, but this is the first time Big Sticks head coach Billy Tomblin got to celebrate the achievement.
“You want to clinch when you are the one winning, not because someone else lost (for celebration purposes),” he said. “But anytime you can get to the playoffs is a great thing, and our guys have done a great job this summer.”
Tomblin knew Badlands (29-20) had a winning tradition going into this summer, and he is happy that they carried the torch despite some struggles with the coronavirus to start the summer, and now they have lost a lot of their players that started the season.
“It is great for the guys and the organization,” he said. “The organization has had a lot of success in the first two years, so I knew that was something that was expected. We had to find a way to get ourselves to the championship series. With this year being the way it has gone with the COVID stuff, we had to start our season with half our team. Now we have lost a lot of guys and we only have a few who were originally on this team that are left. For us to do what we have done is special and it is exciting.”
While winning is important to both the Big Sticks and Tomblin, he believes that focusing on the players getting better leads to winning.
Badlands has had that approach all summer, and it has paid off giving them a chance at back-to-back Expedition League championships.
“It is exciting for me. I am not going to take a job where winning isn’t important. (However) I want the focal point to be player development and players getting better,” Tomblin said. “We accomplished those things and guys got better this summer. They enjoyed themselves and that is first and foremost for me, and winning is a byproduct of that.”
Ironically, the Moo, who helped them clinch, will be their opponent in the championship series that starts this Friday.
Badlands went 2-4 against Fremont (30-20) in two three game sets earlier this summer.
They took the first game of each series, and torched the Moo pitching staff on July, 13 in a 20-14 win, but other than that contest, Fremont was dominant in the other games on the mound.
“I expect that they will be rocking and rolling and ready to go. I am sure they have a bunch of new guys too… They were talented when they came here,” Tomblin said. “They are well-rounded. They pitch, hit, run and do almost everything right.”
Tomblin and his players are ready for the challenge, and they know that pitching will be key to whichever team comes up on top.
It is tough to read too much, he says, into the games earlier this year due to changing rosters and players getting better, but he knows it will be a barn burner of a series.
The schedule has not been set yet due to a few games left to be played in the regular season, but Tomblin thinks the Big Sticks will host a game on Friday night.
Regardless of when they host, he knows it will be fun to play in front of the home crowd at least one more time.
“I think it will be a good series,” he said. “I hope the series is only two games, and I hope it is two games in our favor not their favor. I am glad we get at least one more home game out of it.”