The Badlands Big Sticks recognized the momentum they carried after taking the first two games in their three-game series against the Fremont Moo, a team that started the series with a 16-3 record. Having not swept a series in the season yet, The Dickinson team made the push and saw the game result in a 7-4 victory.
The weather cleared up just in time as the game got underway, but both teams wouldn't have much heat from their bats in the early innings. Not the ideal start for any team, but head coach Billy Tomblin keeps in mind the larger picture.
“It's like a boxing match — very seldom, unless you're watching boxing from the Mike Tyson era, that anybody is getting knocked out in the first round. It's about going blow by blow and trying to figure out the opposing team's arm,” Tomblin said. “I would like to get going earlier, but as long as we get going at some point then it is what it is and we will roll with it.”
In the first, Fremont starting pitcher Ben Simonsen gave away a hit and two walks from an intentional base on ball and a hit by pitch, but managed to strand the three runners.
Big Sticks starter Parker Stohr pitched into the fifth inning before being taken out for Joe Harris. In that time he had five strikeouts and only allowed two runs that came from a two-run homer from his last pitch.
“It comes with consistent conversations with the guys, we now have 22 games under our belts and they all have a few outings under theirs, so we will start to get more comfortable with each situation and get to know each other well,” Matt Hape, Big Sticks pitching coach, said. “There are certainly guys who are starting to place themselves in their roles, like Josh Tucker has solidified himself as a starter, King Stewart has more of a backend role and Patrick Miner is kind of that Swiss army knife that you can give the ball to in any situation.”
Simonsen's substitution came in the fifth after the Big Sticks started to find their run of form again as the bats finally fired up.
The Badlands' hot streak started with an RBI by Jess Bellows bringing in Derek Gellos. With two on bags, Alex Thurston added two RBIs to his record after hitting a homer. Joe Osborn scored next after making his way to home plate from Angel De La Cruz's sacrifice fly to left field.
A final putout followed, leaving two players stranded and scoreboard reading 5-0
“I am not one that likes to talk about winning, I don't want to talk about losing — I want to talk about competing,” Tomblin said. “And the guys did that over these few days.”
The Moo Defense would try to bounce back in the fifth with a new pitcher on the mound.
Stohr left the Diamond in the sixth with a round of applause from the crowd. Before the switch Fremont grabbed a two-run homer from Austin Callahan.
Before The Moo could think of a late rally, the home team responded with two runs of their own in the bottom.
De La Cruz gained a second RBI, hitting another sacrifice ball so Ryan Stafford could grab home plate. The final run came while Travis Ray Jr. was in the batter’s box; Carson Lundmark scored from a wild pitch.
Harris allowed three hits in the seventh, two of which would lead to runs and would be taken out in the eighth with two runners on bags. The Big Sticks pulled Kenny Stewart from the bullpen to finish out the game. Stewart would strike out the last putout, leaving three runners stranded.
The home team tried to add to their lead but ended with two stranded runners to close out the eighth.
Top of the ninth Fremont had zero runners, a double hitter accompanied by three flyouts to end the game and complete the Dickinson sweep over the series. The Big Sticks will have a chance to rest with two days off this week, but will be on the road to South Dakota to face Spearfish Sasquatch tomorrow and Thursday.
“We never like to be away from home. We got the best fans in the Expedition League that give us constant support and they bring energy to the team every single inning,” Tomblin said. “I hate to be on the road, but that's just part of the game. Going into it, it's the same message: Show up, bring your ‘A’ game and compete.”