Sabre Dogs rally falls short against Pioneers

Alex Eisen/MDN Souris Valley Sabre Dogs shortstop Mason Dinesen with a backhanded grab Thursday evening against the Western Nebraska Pioneers at Corbett Field in Minot.

Souris Valley Sabre Dogs head coach Corey Thompson watched his team from underneath the grandstand Thursday evening against the defending Expedition League champions.

Serving a suspension for getting ejected from the game the night prior, Thompson was relegated to being just a spectator.

The Sabre Dogs (27-17) tried to rally for their head coach, but the Western Nebraska Pioneers (33-9) held on for a 6-5 victory Thursday evening at Corbett Field.

“The team got pumped up last night, obviously by scoring seven runs in the ninth,” Sabre Dogs pitching coach Justin Mulvaney said about the team’s response to Thompson’s absence. “They kind of rode that into today a little bit. Western is a good team and we fought hard. I think a little bit of the fire of Corey not being here kind of bleed over into today.”

The Pioneers opened the scoring with a bang. Cole Gambill turned around a two-out, first-inning pitch from Sabre Dogs starter Matt Houlihan for a solo blast over the fence in right center.

His sixth home run of the season stood as the game’s only run until the third inning when the Pioneers tacked on some more.

Western Nebraska plated two runs on a throwing error, as the Sabre Dogs attempted to get a force out at home plate, and another run scored on a routine RBI sacrifice fly.

Chauncey Callier injected some much needed life into the Sabre Dogs in the sixth inning with a two-run triple that somehow eluded the left fielder. Alex Hay brought Callier home with a sharp single into left field as well.

That sequenced ended the day for Pioneers starting pitcher Ty Bothwell. He only allowed four hits in five innings of work, but gave up three runs in return.

“Their guy was throwing some good pitches early and getting ahead,” Mulvaney said. “Our guys were off balance there for a bit. But, once we figured him out, that was a good thing for us.”

Following a ten-minute delay for an umpire injury, the Sabre Dogs grabbed the lead for the first time in the seventh inning.

Josh Paino led things off with a triple that the center fielder misplayed on a dive. Then, Phillip Childs came through with an RBI double into the left field corner to even the score at 4-4.

The next batter, Mason Dinesen, drove in Childs — the go-ahead run — with an RBI single. Just like that, the Sabre Dogs had erased a 4-0 deficit in two innings.

“It was good to see some fight toward the end,” Mulvaney said.

Back-to-back walks by Sabre Dogs relief pitcher Chase Grillo opened the door for the Pioneers in the eighth inning. They tried busting the door down, but Grillo had a masterful escape.

After allowing a game-tying RBI single to Colin Ludwig, which left runners on second and third base with no outs, Grillo struck out the next three batters on 25 pitches. The grueling stretch included a 13-pitch battle with Jordan Rathbone and eight more pitches to take down Alonso Bibiano.

The Pioneers, however, eked across one final run in the ninth inning off an infield RBI single by Zack Peterson that was too hard for third baseman Callier to handle in time.

The Sabre Dogs went down 1-2-3 in the bottom half against closer Joseph Solomon.

“It’s always disappointing to lose,” Mulvaney said. “But, it’s always good to see a good battle.”

The Sabre Dogs have a rematch against the Pioneers at 7:05 p.m. this evening at Corbett Field.

Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.