The sequence of five straight games against the Wheat City Whiskey Jacks continued at home for the Badlands Big Sticks this past weekend. The Big Sticks had a 2-1 advantage in games coming into the series, and that winning formula would continue on Saturday and Sunday.
Even with the sun setting sooner now, the summer weather of mid-90 degrees kept fans finding cover in the shade. The Big Sticks would ultimately take both games but not without a fair fight from the opposing team from Grand Forks.
Saturday's game was played well defensively on both sides, the first run would not come until the top of the third.
Wheat City would have the first run — but not the last as the Big Sticks came out on top, 5-2.
Jack Moffitt was on the mound for the Whiskey Jacks would do good to keep the home team’s bats at bay in the early innings, but his early success would fade by the sixth inning and would be replaced by Julio Acosta. For Badlands, Justin Butz would start and hold the mound for the majority of the game, racking up 10 strikeouts and only allowing three hits and two runs. Pat Miner would come in in the eighth inning to close out the win.
After Wheat City scored in the third, Badlands would follow with one of their own in the bottom after catcher Ryan Stafford's double brought home Joe Osborn.
The two sides would be tied again 2-2 after four innings, as the Whiskey Jacks’ Jake Hjelle hit a home run and the Big Sticks' Matt Olive scored on an Alex Thurston single.
The sixth would show the Big Sticks take the lead for good. Carson Lundmark scored on a sacrifice fly from Wyatt Setian and Chewy Sanders also scored in the inning after a steal of second. Designated hitter Olive would put in more work in the eighth as he would hit a triple to score Anthony Garett for the final run of the game.
Badlands also took Sunday's game, this one on a 9-7 score. Each team had 12 hits each and went to the bullpen more than once looking for the arm to control the game's tempo.
Kelan Scanlan, the first relief pitcher for Wheat City, showed the most composure from the visitors, with four strikeouts and two hits and one walk in three innings.
The Big Sticks' Kenny Stewart took the mound in the third after starter Adam Senden, who after a three-up, three-down inning in the first and only allowing one hit in the second, saw the game tied up with six hits and four runs. Stewart would be the winning pitcher with five strikeouts in five innings — producing the only strikeouts from any of the Big Sticks pitchers in the game.
The Big Sticks took an early lead and held it until the third when Senden was subbed. Olive would grab a two-RBI single and would be brought in himself for the third run of the game. Travis Ray Jr. would score on an unearned run.
The game would remain tied after Wheat City’s rally until the sixth where Derek Gellos, the Dickinson Eagles Club's Player of the Game, would hit a deep RBI triple. Gellos would have 3 RBI and two stolen bases for the game. The Big Sticks grabbed four more runs in the seventh, which turned out to make all the difference.
The fourth runs came from a single, a walk and two-run single. Ray Jr. knocked the single, Osborn turned a 1-2 count into a walk with the bases loaded for Angel De La Cruz to get an easy run and Gellos got his final two RBIs.
Wheat City did not give up there, rallying in the eighth, but Badlands pitcher Matt Slowik closed out the inning, stranding three baserunners, and delivered a 1-2-3 inning in the ninth to finish their string of games against the Whiskey Jacks.
The Badlands Big Sticks are tied for second with Mining City Tommyknockers after they suffered a 12-9 defeat to the Pierre Trappers. Both the Whiskey Jacks and Badlands will continue their string of games -- at Dakota Community Bank and Trust ballpark July 26-29 at 6:05 p.m. The last three games will be held in Grand Forks.