At the bottom of the ninth Travis Ray, Jr. got the crowd up and out of their seats with a three-run homer — but the muddled cheers and competitive play came too little, too late.
The late homer wouldn’t be enough for the Badland Big Sticks to rally, as the final inning would close the door on a three games series against the Souris Valley Sabre Dogs (8-11).
Head coach Billy Tomblin hoped to sweep the series to build momentum as the Big Sticks moved into their next series against the Wheat City Whiskey Jacks.
“This is a frustrating loss. That's a loss you look at and you go, ‘This should have never happened.’ We just didn't come ready to play tonight. There's really not any more of an explanation than we just didn't come ready to play,” Tomblin said. “Being in college baseball for a while now, there are always times with teams you can look back and say, ‘Man, if we would have won that game it might have put us in a better spot moving forward.’ This was one of those games.”
While the Badlands Big Sticks were unable to get started offensively until the fourth with a single run, it would leave them more than halfway through the game and down by five.
The Sabre Dogs would take full advantage of holding the lead — playing with ease and confidence.
At the top of the sixth, Souris Valley’s Ethan Moore jacked a triple in the leadoff before being brought in by the following batter Cadyn Schwabe. In the eighth, the Dogs would gain an additional run and finish with three more in the ninth.
Before the final frame the Big Sticks were down five, had collected 10 strikeouts and had seven players stranded throughout the game — an unusually slow start on the season for the perennial powerhouse.
Starting pitcher for the Sticks was Michael Reddick who took the first three innings and allowed five hits and four runs. Anthony Rodriguez would be called from the bullpen to man the middle three innings and would allow four hits and three runs — ending the night with the best ERA for the Big Sticks at 3.68. The final three innings would be shared between Brady Salyards, pitching two and Daniel Rivera coming in to close. Between the pair, six strikeouts would help keep the Dogs at bay, but fielding errors (3) would give up two runs.
While the season is early, the bad hops keep coming for the Sticks.
“It's been a recurring theme for us this year that we just can't handle our business defensively,” Tomblin said. “I would say every game we lost is due to the fact that we can not pick the ball and play good defense, so until that changes it is going to be a rough go for us.”
An attempted rally came in the ninth when Carson Lundmark brought in Steve Jamroziak, while Jess Bellows would score a run off a wild pitch. By the time Ray would send a ball packing deep to center left, the Big Sticks would be down two outs with little hope to bounce back.
“For him the scoreboard is irrelevant,” Tomblin said. “Travis is an extremely competitive kid, he holds himself to a really high standard. It doesn't matter if we are losing 20 to nothing or if we are winning 20 to nothing, Travis is going to show up and compete.”
The Sticks will have to move past the sting of their latest defeat as they hit the road to face the Whiskey Jacks with the series starting June 11.
The Whiskey Jacks are 6-7 in the season.