Big Sticks take 16-15, extra-innings loss on the road

Jun. 1—EAU CLAIRE, Wisc. — After starting the season at 3-0, the Badlands Big Sticks have dropped the last two games, losing at Willmar, Minn. to the Stingers, 7-3, on Thursday, May 30 and dropping an extra-innings contest to Eau Claire's Express on the last day of May 2024. The 16-15, extra-innings affair was a seesaw battle, throughout, with the lead changing hands four times and the Express scoring 4 runs in the 11th in walkoff fashion for the win.

The 'Sticks sent five pitchers to the mound during the game, with J.D. Kirchner absorbing the late loss on 3.1 innings of work while giving up 5 earned-runs — and the Badlands club surrendering 6 total during that period — with 3 strikeouts, 3 hits and 6 walks assigned to his stat-sheet. The staff combined for 10 total Ks while surrendering 15 walks, and while the Big Sticks outhit the Express, 12-10, the game sent the visitors to 3-2 on the young, 2024 summer league season.

Eau Claire put up 5 runs in the bottom of the first and the 'Sticks closed the gap to 5-2 in the second inning on a 2-run homer from designated-hitter Dane Jones that plated third-baseman Cooper Hill. With 4 more runs in the fifth, the Big Sticks took the lead as Marcus Romero was hit by a pitch with the bases-loaded to score catcher Mason Strong before Hill drove left-fielder Kaden Carpenter home on a groundout and Jones doubled home first-baseman Evan Appelwick and Romero to make the score 6-5.

The Big Sticks added 4 more in the next frame with Dickinson native and third-baseman Troy Berg plating second-baseman Ty Nekoliczak on a single to center and Carpenter singling home Berg — who went 3-for-7 with a pair of RBI, a run and 2 stolen-bases — before Jones was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to score Appelwick and Nekoliczak sent Romero across the plate on a walk with the bases still juiced for a solid, 10-7 advantage to the 'Sticks after the Express sent 3 runs home in the meantime.

Things came unwound for the visitors in the eighth frame as Eau Claire scored 4 runs to take the lead at 12-10 and the Big Sticks notched 2 runs in the ninth to send the game into bonus-baseball with Berg singling Nekoliczak across the dish on a single and Appelwick scoring leadoff-hitter Quade Peters.

Things seemed decided after the 'Sticks jumped on the Express to the tune of 3 runs in the top of the 11th with Carpenter sending Peters home on a single to left and Appelwick drilling a 2-run dinger that scored Carpenter, but Eau Claire shortstop Jake Busson was hit by a pitch with the bases jacked — after the hosts had scored 3 previous runs — to upend the Big Sticks in the end.

Carpenter, Appelwick and Jones all had multi-hit nights, with Jones driving in 5 RBI and Appelwick sending 3 home while scoring thrice, himself, and Nekoliczak swiped a game-high 3 bags to keep the Express on their toes.

The Big Sticks will face the Express again today, June 1, at 6:35 p.m. MDT and then travel to Duluth, Minn. for a two-game series with the Huskies on Monday and Tuesday.

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