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Casper scares Badlands bats: Big Sticks offense struggles in loss to Horseheads

Casper starting pitcher Nick Cornelius struck out nine Big Sticks batters over six and one third innings on Tuesday, June 12 at Dakota Community Bank & Trust Ballpark. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)1 / 3
Big Sticks right-handed thrower Gabe Lizarraga fires at the plate against the Horseheads on Tuesday, June 12 at Dakota Community Bank & Trust Ballpark. (Shelby Reardon/ The Dickinson Press)2 / 3
Casper first baseman Brady Van Hook catches a throw, putting away a Badlands hitter. (Shelby Reardon / the Dickinson Press)3 / 3

Maybe the Badlands Big Sticks mistreated the baseball gods. Maybe the balls had eyes, or maybe Casper really had that much control.

Either way, balls were not falling the right way for the Badlands Big Sticks.

Over the first two innings, Horseheads batters got on base with hits just over the infield and in the gaps, putting up eight runs. They added on to the lead in later innings, topping the Big Sticks 15-6 on Tuesday, June 12 at Dakota Community Bank & Trust Ballpark.

"We needed stuff to go our way," Casper head coach Jason Carbonneau said. "The way the season has been for these guys, I've only been here a week now, they needed something to go their way finally. ... There were some bounces that went our way but the guys have been working on staying on top of the ball."

Badlands head coach Hayden Pewitt, who has watched his team drop three of its last four contests, thought effort played a role in the first two innings as well.

"The last three games we've showed up, we put on the jerseys and we thought, 'okay we've beat these guys three times already. They're going to roll over and we're going to kick them,'" Pewitt said. "They put up pretty good numbers in the first inning and we haven't responded. We've been flat coming out. I'll take the blame for that one. It's just unacceptable."

Badlands starting pitcher Matt Graser saw the full Casper lineup in the first inning, starting with a home run from leadoff hitter Dalton Mauldin.The Horseheads scored four more in the first.

With help from a walk to start the inning and a two-RBI single from Brady Van Hook, Casper added three more in the second.

Despite having an added pressure of being the evening's beer batter, who earns the crowd cheap beer with a strikeout, Van Hook went 4-for-5 on the night, scoring twice while earning three RBIs.

"That guy is just unbelievable lately," Carbonneau said. "He's just been hitting really well. We've been talking about hitting the last couple days, me and him. The last couple games he's been right on. He's seeing the ball now."

Graser struggled for the first time this season, closing the books after two innings. In his prior three starts, he lasted at least six innings.

"Matt was up in the zone all day," Pewitt said. "I think we're going to throw a lot more in the bullpen, hopefully get the first inning jitters out of him. I think Matt's going to come back and compete really well. I haven't lost any confidence in him."

Graser threw 63 pitches over the two innings, prompting Pewitt to put in Gabe Lizarraga, who threw four innings before Dakota Weindel came in to finish the game.

Casper starting pitcher Nick Cornelius lasted 6 ⅓ stanzas, striking out nine batters while walking two. He kept the home team off the board until the seventh.

One Big Sticks batter was able to work with Cornelius: third baseman Drew Staley.

Staley had the first hit of the game with a single in the bottom of the third. The No. 8 batter singled in the seventh, scoring when Chasen Roulhac followed with a double. He also got on base with a walk to kick off the bottom of the ninth inning. Still, he admitted Cornelius was a challenge.

"That first guy, he could just throw wherever he wanted to," Staley said. "Sometimes we felt like we were getting kind of squeezed by the umpire but he was on today."

Staley, who just finished his first year at MSU-Billings, is confident his team can bounce back from their small slump, though, when they square off with the Horseheads again on Wednesday, June 13 and Thursday at 6:35 p.m.

"You just gotta remember that tomorrow is a new day and just keep fighting," Staley said. "That's the beauty about baseball, you play everyday. You just got to figure it out tomorrow. We'll come back out there. We know we're better than those guys."

Casper Horseheads 15, Dickinson 6

CHH 530 000 313 — 15 20 1

BBS 000 002 301 — 6 8 1

Nick Cornelius (6.1), Kanaikai Gaughen (2.2) and Ryan Gross. Matt Graser (2), Gabe Lizarraga (4), Dakota Weindel (3) and Ben Thoma.

W—Cornelius. L—Graser. HR—CHH: Dalton Mauldin, Connor Lowrie. BBS: Aaron Fritts.

Highlights: CHH, Brady Van Hook 4-5, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB; Lowrie 3-6, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, 3 R; Cornelius 6.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 9 K. BBS, Aaron Fritts 2-5, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R; Drew Staley 2-3, BB, 2 R; Auggie Francis 1-3, 1 RBI; Jake Thurber 1-4, 1 RBI; Ben Thoma 1-4, 2B; Chasen Roulhac 1-2, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI; Gabe Lizarraga 4 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 1 BB, 4 K.