Pioneers Struggle in Home Opener

Box Score

(Miles City, MT) The Miles Community College Pioneers opened up their home schedule this weekend with a six game conference series against Lamar Community College. MCC heads into the weekend after a 1-5 start to their conference schedule after a tough weekend in La Junta, CO a week ago.

“We are optimistic,” said head coach Jeff Brabant heading into the weekend. “I know Lamar is going to come into the weekend with some fire after how last season ended up [MCC eliminated Lamar at Region IX Tourney], so we have to come out and match that intensity.”

The Pioneers did just that in Game 1 on Saturday. MCC starter Jonathan Ringer put together a solid outing and held a potent Pronghorn offense scoreless through the 4th inning. The freshman lefty from Bitterroot, MT had his stuff working but would run into some trouble in the 5th. After a defensive blunder in the infield plated a run, Lamar’s Aidan Karraker snuck a ball through the infield to plate the second run of the inning.

Lamar’s Starter Darin Cook held MCC at bay through the first five innings, but after giving up a two spot in the fifth, the Pioneers answered in the sixth. A lead off single by Sam Haug, followed up by back to back extra base hits by TJ Booth and Nolan Darr pushed two runs across the dish to knot things at two runs.

Cody Eaton came in relief for Ringer and he would toss a clean sixth inning and would cruise for the first two outs of the seventh. Lamar found some heat and strung together three straight two out singles scoring the go ahead run. Eaton would get out of the inning with no more damage, but would still have their backs on the wall with just three outs to work with.

Mario Del Bosque III drew a walk to lead off the seventh and Boyle followed that up with a single into left to put runners on first and second. Vinny Smith would put the down the bunt to put the winning run in scoring position with just one out. After a pitching change and a strikeout, Luke Cathey came to the plate. Cathey turned on a fastball and hit a ball right at the Lamar short stop who misplayed it and Boyle would score on a close play at the plate and the Pioneers walked off with the first game of series in a 4-3 win.

Eaton would pick up the win for MCC, but Jonathan Ringer would shine in his no decision effort. Booth and Darr would have the only two RBIs for MCC and Sam Haug would lead the offense with two hits in the game.

After a win in game 1, MCC came out flat in game 2. MCC couldn’t muster anything at the dish, besides a single by Luke Cathey in the fifth inning and the Pioneers would fall 13-0 in five innings in the back half of the Saturday doubleheader.

Game 3 didn’t change much from game 2 and the Pioneers were just outmatched in the first game of day 2.

“We just came out sluggish on Sunday,” said assistant coach Jake Mills. “There was no fire and it started at batting practice. With how good this league is, if you don’t show up to the field with the right mindset and you go through the motions in game prep, it’s going to show and you’re going to get embarrassed and that’s what happened in game 3 this weekend. We flat out got embarrassed.”

The Pioneers had only two hits in the third game. Lamar starter Christian Manmano went the distance picking up the win and the shutout, as the Pioneers fell 16-0.

“Momentum is a huge thing in baseball,” said Jeff Brabant. “You have to find ways to take momentum away and keep it when you get it. We had it after the first game of the series but Lamar threw a punch and took it back. We need to do a better job minimizing the momentum swings and Beau did a great job building some momentum for us in game 4.”

Freshman transfer Beau Thomas took the hill in game 4 and he took it with some authority. The lefty carved up the Lamar lineup for five innings and snatched the momentum back for the Pioneers.

The MCC offense turned on the jets in the fourth inning after a Dakota Crowe single plated TJ Booth to put the Pioneers on the board and break ice for the fifth inning.

After a clean top half by Beau Thomas, MCC hit the dugout for the bottom half of the fifth. Two quick outs didn’t stop the Pioneers from stringing together some offense. Vinny Smith drew a two out walk and would eventually steal second base before being plated by a Luke Cathey single through the four-hole. Braxton Boyle followed up Cathey’s single with an RBI triple to center to put the Pioneers up by three. Boyle would score on a wild pitch and put the Pioneers up by four heading into the sixth inning.

Thomas’s shutout magic would run out in the top half of the sixth. After a lead of walk, Lamar three-hole hitter Aiden Karraker sent a ball into the left field bleachers to cut the lead in half. Thomas would bounce back and retire the next three in order to minimize the damage.

MCC would go scoreless in the sixth and have a chance to slam the door in the seventh but Lamar wasn’t done at the plate.

With one out in the seventh Lamar took advantage of some defensive miscues in both the outfield and infield that would cost the Pioneers three runs and the lead. Thomas would exit the game with two outs in the seventh and Cody Frenk took the hill and retired the first hitter he faced to put the game in the hands of the Pioneer offense.

The Pioneers would go three up three down in the bottom half of the inning and would fall 5-4. Beau Thomas finished the game with 6.2 Innings pitched giving up 5 runs, two of which were earned runs. Thomas struck out two and walked five.

“Beau pitched great,” said head coach Jeff Brabant, “he deserved to get that win. It just proves what we have preached as a coaching staff is that there are no guarantees in baseball. You can’t take pitches off and when you do, the baseball has a funny way of finding you and that’s exactly what happened at the end of that game.”

Heading into the final day of the series, MCC needed a sweep to salvage the weekend and Mitch Hughson put together his best effort to do so.

The freshman tossed six innings giving up four runs and struck out five as he had the Pioneers with a chance late in the game.

With MCC trailing by three in the bottom of the sixth, MCC would load the bases after walks by Braxton Boyle and Nolan Darr, and a single by TJ Booth. With one out, Ty Jones dug in to the box and sent a 1-1 fastball down the left field line that hooked just inside the foul pole for the grand slam homerun. The Pioneers were back in the driver’s seat after the Jones blast and were three outs away from the first half of a much needed sweep on Day 3.

Sophomore Cody Eaton, who shined in a relief appearance in game 1 of the series took the hill in the seventh with a one run lead. Eaton would get the first two outs in order but Lamar would strike back with two outs again. A Stone Romero single extended the inning and pinch hitter Owen Reynolds came to the plate representing the go ahead run. Reynolds timed up a fastball and sent a ball into bleachers to put the Pronghorns up by one heading into the bottom half of the final inning.

Luke Cathey would single with two outs in the seventh to put the tying run aboard, but Christian Peery would slam the door shut on any comeback hopes for the Pioneers. MCC would fall 6-5 after losing the lead in the seventh for the second consecutive game.

After the tough loss in game five, MCC couldn’t find their momentum back as the Pronghorns put together a 17 run game six to close out the series.

“It was a tough weekend,” said Jeff Brabant on the series, “when you lose close games like that, you have to be able to bounce back with some conviction and compete and we did not compete in the crunch time. We have a talented group of guys, but if there are some guys that are not bought into competing at the level we need to we are going to continue losing close games. We need to change our mindset this week because we are running out of lives and our window to make it to the regional tournament is closing quickly. On the bright side, there is still an opening. We can make changes, put together five weeks of good baseball, and still end up where we want to be at the end of the year but if we don’t buy into a competitive philosophy, we are going to come up short.”

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