Break out the broom
Sabre Dogs sweep holiday weekend series against Pioneers
Tanner Riley played with fire, but the Souris Valley Sabre Dogs closer emptied the extinguisher before getting badly burnt.
Riley, who pitched out of a stressful jam two days prior, masterfully escaped another sticky situation Sunday afternoon to earn his third save of the save. With Sabres Dogs clinging to a 5-3 lead, Riley induced a game-ending groundout with runners on second and third base.
“Nah, I don’t think so,” Sabre Dogs head coach Corey Thompson said about feeling the pressure late. “Tanner Riley is our guy, man. He makes it look interesting. He did it two nights ago with the bases loaded. But, he always comes through. No doubt when it comes to that guy.”
The 5-3 victory completed a three-game series sweep against the Western Nebraska Pioneers (4-6) at Corbett Field in Minot.
Saturday’s recap of the Sabre Dogs 7-4 win over the Pioneers on the Fourth of July can be found online at minotdailynews.com.
The Pioneers have played in the last two Expedition League title games, winning the inaugural 2018 championship. So, inherently, this early-season sweep meant a little more for the surging Sabre Dogs, now back over the .500 mark with a 5-4 record.
“Sweeps don’t come easy in baseball, but especially in this league against a team like that,” said Sabre Dogs outfielder Wilson Roubion. “It’s a great feeling.”
Throwing precise darts out of the gate, Sabre Dogs starting pitcher Trevor Jackson opened the game by striking out the side on 12 pitches — nine strikes, two pitches fouled off and only one ball.
“I just wanted to get ahead,” Jackson said. “Cullen (Hannigan) did a great job of calling pitches behind the plate and keeping hitters off balance.”
Jackson tacked on two more strikeouts in the second inning and stranded a go-ahead runner on third base, who reached earlier because of a walk.
Jackson pitched four innings, allowing two runs and struck out seven.
“He has elite stuff,” Thompson said about Jackson. “I’m just ready to watch him once this pitch count rule gets lifted. Watch him stay in the whole game because he is fun to watch.”
Mason Dinesen snapped the scoreless stalemate in the bottom half with a bases-loaded walk. That tied him with Pierre Trappers’ Cooper McMurray for the Expedition League lead in RBIs (12).
The Sabre Dogs left the bases loaded and had their 1-0 lead disappear the following half inning. Shuffling along on the third-base line, Luis Alcantara tied the game on a wild pitch in the turf. Then, Blaine Ray dropped an RBI single into center field to give the Pioneers a 2-1 lead.
A nonchalant reaction in retrieving a live ball from the Pioneers catcher Gabe Togia allowed Chase Alford, who started on second base, to score off a wild pitch and level the affair at 2-2 in the third inning.
In similar fashion to how Western Nebraska took the lead for the first time, Ray flared another RBI single back up the middle to put the Pioneers up 3-2 in the sixth inning.
“We didn’t like losing in the first week,” Jackson said. “That lit a fire under us and got us rolling a bit.”
The Sabre Dogs rallied with a three-run seventh inning to regain control of the lead for the final time. The bottom of the order came through with catcher Hannigan and No. 9 hitter Roubion coming up with RBI singles.
“The previous game, I hit three or four balls so hard but right to people, and that’s how the game goes sometimes,” said Roubion, who finished 3-for-4 with the lone RBI on Sunday. “Today, I had a broken-bat single. It’s things like that. Baseball just happens. In general, up and down the lineup, we are seeing the ball really well.”
Dinesen added another RBI the painful way by taking a pitch square in his back with the bases loaded to increase the Sabre Dogs’ advantage to 5-3.
Alford had a productive 2-for-4 offensive showing with two runs scored. Tim Conway also legged out a triple in the fourth inning.
Riley tiptoed through the ninth inning to extend the Sabre Dogs’ winning streak to three games — all coming at Corbett Field.
“Corbett, in my opinion, has the best environment in this league,” Roubion said. “But being on the road is fun too. Playing in front of new faces and different crowds, that’s a fun environment too.”
The Sabre Dogs head to Nebraska next for a three-game road series against the Clark Division-leading Fremont Moo. Two more road games follow against the Hastings Sodbusters before the Sabre Dogs return home to Corbett Field on July 11 to face the Moo again.
Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.