Big Sticks fall to Spuds to start three-game home series
The Idaho Spuds took a 9-7 win over the Badlands Big Sticks on Monday.
DICKINSON —After Monday’s third home game against the North Plate Plainsmen was canceled, due to unruly weather, the Badlands Big Sticks welcomed the Canyon County Spuds on June 21 for another three-game at-home series.
The Sticks started off with an early lead against the Spuds, but were narrowly defeated courtesy of Idaho’s unstoppable offense and after hindered themselves courtesy of errors for a final score of 9-7.
Going into the match up, the Sticks and Spuds had nearly identical season records, the Sticks at 13-7 and the Spuds at 12-7. With this loss, the Sticks record falls to 13-8.
The Big Sticks have shown great promise all season, but lapses in concentration have resulted in those few bad innings where the wheels fall off. Between pitching errors, shortcomings in the outfield and a struggling defense, the Sticks were unable to make a comeback after one bad inning set the stage at Astoria Field.
“We need to work on minimizing the big inning; that’s what’s been our downfall all year when we lose,” Cam Johnson, Big Sticks head coach, said. “We give up 4,5 or 6 runs in an inning. When we can find a way to make it 2 or 3, that’s when we’re having success.”
McKinney, Texas native Justin Butz had a rough go on the mound for the Sticks, only pitching for 3 before the Sticks would go to the pen. He allowed 9 runs, 4 walks and concluded his performance with 6 ER’s for a 4.19 ERA. Throughout the night he struggled with brushbacks, cookies and a hand full of bad balls that resulted in his falling behind in counts and providing easy walks for the Spuds.
The first four innings were packed with action as Cooper Dulich tallied 2 dingers for the Sticks, while Jayden Gibson and Quade Peters each tallied one. The Sticks went from dominance to little league in the fourth when the batting lineup became bogged down with foul balls and cans of corn that rendered any scoring attempt moot for five strait innings.
As a team, Idaho had electric and intimidating energy and sat in a catbird seat for the remainder of the game. They set fire to the bags in the fourth with 8 runs in a single inning, leading to a Spuds bench erupting with barking cheers while the Sticks bench fell silent.
Sticks fans belted a Bronx cheer from the bleachers on multiple occasions, shouting down an umpire who made multiple controversial calls late in the game.
“We need to play better regardless of what the umpires do,” Johnson said. “We need to catch the baseball and take care of it better.”
Five-tool player Carson Lundmark has been a key component to the Sticks success all season and his stats for the night reflected it. Leading the team with 5 at bats, 4 hits, 5 RBI’s and 3 crucial four-baggers that kept the score tight for the Sticks. Throughout the night he racked up 2-run and 3-run homers — marking his selection as The Dickinson Press' Athlete of the Month for June.
In a desperate effort to tie the score, Johnson would call on Lundmark and Derrick Calvillo, two of the Sticks strongest batters, in the ninth in hopes that they’d work one of their signature game-changing miracles. Lundmark nearly did with a clean hit that saw the stand-out zip across the bags to third.
“Carson had a good night,” Johnson said. “He stays consistent, knows his approach and knows what makes him successful. He is locked in right now and it’s fun to get to watch him play.”
With this loss in the background, the Sticks are hungry for a victory and ready to show up for a fight these next two games.
“Our guys know there’s not a moment too big,” Johnson said. "They just need to go out, have fun and compete, that’s what I tell them all the time.”