PIERRE, S.D. — The Hastings Sodbusters are doing everything they can to maintain their 3 1/2 game lead over the Spearfish Sasquatch and earn a wildcard playoff spot.
With Sunday’s 16-4 victory over Pierre, the Sodbusters have won seven of their last nine games dating back to last Friday.
The goal all year has been to be one of the two teams in the divisional playoff game on August 7.
“We’re in great shape,” said head coach Bryan Frew in regards to making the playoffs. “Spearfish has tough games coming up and we’re playing Hub City and Casper, which are good ball teams but they haven’t had much success lately and they’re not in the playoff race. So, I really like our chances with how deep our pitching staff is and how our hitters are approaching their at bats right now.”
Hastings got its third straight quality start Sunday out of Matt Hess. Hess hurled seven innings, struck out five Trappers, walked three and scattered seven hits while limiting Pierre to one run over that span.
“(Our starting pitching) has been fantastic,” Frew said. “Our starters are having such great outings and they have for quite a while… It seems like every time a guy goes out, we’re getting six or seven innings out of them. That’s huge for a bullpen.”
The bullpen had plenty of cushion to work with once Hess’ night was over. The Sodbusters scored in every inning but the first, second and fourth.
Hastings broke the ice in the third with a three spot off of Trappers’ starter Alex Sheetz.
With two outs, Anthony Dominguez walked and Jake Oblas singled. Austin Elder punched a 3-2 fastball to left to score Dominguez and after Tyler Daugherty drew a walk to load the bases, Alec Lee singled to left to score Oblas and Elder and make it 3-0.
Hastings added two more in the fifth on a double by Lee, who finished 2-for-5 with 4 RBI, then three in each the sixth, seventh and eighth.
Some highlights of the night included Breyden Eckhout hitting his first home of the season in the sixth as well as pitchers Vinny Schmidt and Sam Colehower stepping to the plate as hitters. Schmidt knocked a single to right in the seventh and was hit-by-pitch in the ninth while Colehower earned a walk in his only plate appearance.
Dominguez, Oblas, Elder and Anthony Ortega all collected two hits in the ballgame.
Donovan Meadows threw 2/3 of an inning in relief of Hess, but allowed two runs on one hit and three walks before being replaced by Daniel Hundley. Hundley recorded the final four outs of the game, but he, too, allowed a run on three hits.
While the Sodbusters’ bullpen allowed three runs Sunday with the game already decided, Frew said that’s not the worry.
“Our problem is getting some guys some innings so they can stay fresh. That’s just a testament to how deep our bullpen is,” he said. “It’s a really great problem to have. We’ve got guys in a lot of different spots that can throw really well in a lot of different situations, so I feel really good about that, too.”
Hastings takes the series and five of six from Pierre this summer.
Six games remain in the regular season. The Sodbusters will play a three-game set with Hub City in Aberdeen, S.D. spanning Monday through Wednesday before returning home to finish with three against the Casper Horseheads.
First pitch Monday in Aberdeen is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.
HAS (28-30) 003 023 332 — 16 15 0
PTR (29-28) 000 100 021 — 4 11 2
W — Matt Hess. L — Alex Sheets.
2B — H, Alec Lee, Anthony Ortega; P, Jack Stamper.
HR — H, Breyden Eckhout.