The Western Nebraska Pioneers were involved in an atypical slugfest on Friday night in Aberdeen, dropping a 11-8 decision to the Hub City Hotshots at Fossum Field to snap their four-game winning streak.
The Pioneers (14-7) have been far more frequently featured in pitcher’s duels this season, but the tone of the weekend series opener was set early as the Hotshots (8-13) tacked on a first-inning run before the Pioneers exploded for five runs in the top of the second. Aaron Gerdes battled out an 8-pitch at-bat with the bases loaded and two outs before ripping a bases-clearing triple to the gap in right-center field. A batter later, Andrew Bates hit his second homer of the summer to give the Pioneers a 5-1 lead.
Typically, five runs would be enough to secure a Pioneer victory. The Hotshots and their strong offense made sure that was not the case, as Hub City powered right back with a five-run third that included a Derek Marshall grand slam. An inning later, after the Pioneers had tied the game on a fielding error, the Hotshots added 3 more off of Logan Gilbertson and never looked back.
Gilbertson, making a spot start after several rock-solid performances out of the bullpen, had his command working but was hit around pretty harshly and saw his defense fall apart behind him. After back-to-back errorless games, the Pioneer infield committed four errors, three of which came in the first four innings. Even early changes to the defensive alignment failed to help the defense improve.
Gilbertson finished with 9 runs allowed, only five of which were earned, on nine hits over 3.2 innings, with zero walks and zero strikeouts. Teddy Broxterman, who has settled into a nice role as the Pioneers’ long-relief man, allowed two earned runs over 3.1 solid frames while striking out three, allowing four hits and walking one.
Ultimately, the Hotshots offense proved too overpowering again despite the Pioneers showing well on offense with 12 hits. Bates led the way with his home run and and a single, and Beau Bratton had a nice game as he continues to heat up, scoring three runs while singling twice and walking twice.
Zach Smith was the winning pitcher for Hub City despite a generally poor performance, allowing six runs (five earned) over five innings of work on seven hits, two walks and four strikeouts. Trevyn Wells and Josiah Acton each allowed one run out of the bullpen.
The Pioneers still hold a 3.5 game lead in the Clark Division headed into Saturday’s game two. First pitch is scheduled for 5:35 PM MST with Cal Beardsley scheduled to start for the Pioneers.