By Dale Miller
HASTINGS – Hastings became the final of the six active Expedition League teams to get its first win of the 2020 season Monday at Duncan Field.
The Sodbusters couldn’t quickly earn win No. 2.
Hastings topped Western Nebraska 6-3 in the first of a pair of seven-inning games. But the Sodbusters committed five errors in the second contest and saw the Pioneers roll to an 11-4 victory.
The Sodbusters (1-4) were outhit 4-2 in the first game but still managed to break into the win column thanks to eight walks.
“That’s getting the monkey off your back,” Hastings coach Bill Clay said. “It was a really good win. We only got two hits but we took advantage of the base on balls and things like that. Certainly I wasn’t happy to get just two hits, but when you win all you care about is the ‘W.’ It doesn’t matter how you get it.
“That’s why you play the game, to win the game. I felt relieved.”
Hastings took advantage of the early struggles by Western Nebraska starter Mikito Barkman (Yakima Valley CC) to take a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
The first five Sodbuster batters all reached on three walks and their only two hits of the game, including a two-run single by Ryan McDonald (South Dakota State).
Trailing 6-0 going into the fifth, Western Nebraska received a spark after Hastings reliever Will Richardson (Jefferson) loaded the bases by hitting three straight batters.
With one out, Ethan Loveless (Portland) singled home a pair of runners.
Jay Alvarez (Grambling State) closed the door on the Pioneers, allowing one hit with three strikeouts and one walk over the final 1 1/3 innings to pick up the save.
Starter Jeremy Schneider (Northeast CC) gave up one hit while striking out three and walking none over three innings.
“I thought Jeremy did good,” Clay said. “I thought all the pitchers did fairly well in the first game. Jeremy is going to be a good one for us.”
The second game left Clay disappointed.
“In game two, five errors, bad baserunning – we just played a bad ball game,” he said. “I told the kids that we’ve got to step it up a notch. I said I’ve been a nice guy for a week, and it’s over.
“I said you want to get on the bus and ride with us, come on. If you want to go home, good luck to you.
“We’re going to step it up a notch. It’s not going to guarantee anything, but hopefully you will see us play the game harder.”
The Sodbusters fell behind 3-1 before tying things up in the third inning on a two-run single by catcher Tayten Tredaway (Seminole State). Tredaway also tripled and went on to score in the second inning and added a single in the sixth.
Western Nebraska (3-2) regained control with five runs in the top of the fourth. The Pioneers had four singles while the Sodbusters’ fourth error of the game led to two unearned runs.
Western Nebraska scored in each of the first five innings before Grand Island Senior High graduate Cole Evans shut out the Pioneers in the sixth.
The Pioneers got their leadoff runner on in six out of the seven innings. Those runners along with the errors allowed them to easily win a game in which they were outhit 10-9.
“I learned 40 years ago when the leadoff hitter gets on base, 60% of the time he scores,” Clay said. “We walked guys and then we had a chance to turn a double play.”
Michael Callia (Lower Columbia CC) picked up the win by not allowing a run on three hits with three strikeouts and a walk in 2 1/3 innings of relief.
Sodbusters starter Trey Asher, a Hastings St. Cecilia graduate, allowed two runs (one earned) on one hit over two innings.
“I thought in the second game Asher wasn’t at his best today,” Clay said. “He threw 24 pitches the first inning, and that’s not like him. You have to live through those things, but he’s going to be fine.”
After a day off Tuesday, the Sodbusters start on a nine-game road trip Wednesday at Fremont.