Big Sticks top Gem City in tightly contested 5-4 series opener
With the win on Wednesday, the Big Sticks move to the top of the Great Plains standings and appear poised to maintain dominating performances behind an experienced line-up.
DICKINSON — A late win spurred on by the cheers of the home crowd gave the Badlands Big Sticks just enough motivation to finish with a 5-4 victory in what the night’s most dominant pitcher, Casten Reed, called “magical.”
The Big Sticks hosted the series opener against the Gem City Bison on Wednesday, July 13, in a pairing that saw early innings struggles from the Big Sticks’ pitching rotation. The strike zone seemed to narrow as the Sticks would give up seven walks — two of which resulted in runs scored.
Reed would enter the game in the fourth inning as the third relief pitcher on the night and down 3-0. Despite the odds, he said he was ready to make up the difference. During his time on the mound, he would burn heaters past five batters in quick succession and only give up four hits and one walk.
“We went through a couple of pitchers in the first three innings, coach was like, ‘Do we have anybody here that can throw strikes?’ I challenged him and I raised my hand and went to the bullpen,” Reed said. “There was something different in the air tonight and I just really liked it and just went out there and did my job and tried to keep the guys in it, keep us in it and at the end of the night we ended up getting the W out of it… It was just magical and I just love it and I love the game for it.”
Hits were scarce early on for the Big Sticks as well as they would start the game sheepishly before launching their go-ahead run in the waning moments of the game — entering the final frame in a 4-1 deficit.
Third baseman Alex Urlaub would be the first to claim a run for the Sticks, hitting the only triple of the game as the lead off hitter in the third inning. Later he would cross home plate on odd fielder's choice.
Coach Cam Johnson highlighted his mentality and the importance of staying alert early.
“I get on them sometimes because that has been our downfall. We get kind of lackadaisical every once and awhile, and this game is too demanding to take innings and pitches off. I think we saw that today,” Johnson, the Big Sticks head coach, said. “But once these guys get going it's fun though.”
Reed was subbed out for Logan Fragomeni at the top of the ninth after making a fielding contribution in assisting a 1-3 putout. The only blemish on Reed’s stats on the night was an unearned run courtesy of the only error the Sticks had all night. Reed stayed vivacious in the dugout, hyping up the crowd into a frenzy as the Big Sticks looked for a rally.
“When he pulled me at the top of the ninth, Coach said, ‘We are going to win this game for you' and that is what we did. I appreciate the guys a lot and thank them for everything they do. It is a great group of guys and we are a brotherhood,” a motivated Reed said post-game.
Despite striking out two batters, Gem City’s closer, Marcos Feria would blow the save after walking five — resulting in three runs. The tying run would bring the crowd to their feet and the Sticks out of the dugout just as Cade Ostenson's daring dash home sealed the game in Dickinson.
“Big time play by Cade Ostenson there at the end. I sent him and I was like, ‘Listen, let's let a playmaker make a play,’" Johnson said. “Awesome win tonight from the whole team. It was literally all hands on deck… We stuck to our plan and did our thing.”
After the game Johnson, ecstatic with the win, said he wants more from his players noting that they are a better squad than simply winning late with rallies.
“Obviously we won so we are happy with the result, but we need to come out with that same energy, that same approach and that same discipline for all nine innings,” Johnson said. “Awesome crowd tonight, that was a really fun team win tonight and it is time to get hot and win a couple more in a row here.”