All it took was an error.
After being down by eight runs in the regular season finale at Williams Stadium Saturday afternoon vs. Colby, the Broncbusters did not just scratch back into the game, but haymaker punched their way back in, hitting six home runs to tie it at 11 in the eighth inning. The final blast came off the bat of Corbin Truslow, prompting a Buster celebration as explosive as the home run.
But a ninth-inning throwing error undid all of the offensive pop and pomp, giving Colby the 13-11 win and the series win, despite the Busters winning the day’s opener, 4-2, behind the one-run, six-inning effort of Eric Heiman.
“We’re short one inning,” GCCC head coach Chris Finnegan said. “You’ve got to give the guys a lot of credit — they played hard. They could have quit down 11-3, but they didn’t. They fought back to tie the game, but we just got the short end of the stick there in the ninth inning.”
It’s how the entire season has gone for the Busters, who drop to 26-27 overall and 12-20 in the KJCCC West. It’s the first time the Busters have finished the regular season with a losing record since 2008, and just the second time in Finnegan’s 14-year tenure.
And it’s been subpar pitching, fielding mistakes and mental mistakes that have kept them from winning — mistakes like Darian Burns getting picked off of first base down eight runs in the sixth, just before a RJ Bourget solo home run.
That would-be run would have gotten the Busters one run closer prior to their seventh-inning, six-run rally that made it 11-10.
“We’ve made those mistakes all year,” Finnegan said. “We haven’t gotten any better with that.”
Truslow — who hit a solo home run earlier in the game — and Ty Barclay walked to lead off the seventh for the Busters, and then Robbie Young homered to make it 11-7. Then Lightley and Burns reached, Chris Lara sacrifice bunted them to second and third, and Bourget hit the second three-run home run of the inning to make it 11-10.
Then, to lead off the eighth, Truslow sliced a 3-2 offering to left to tie it at 11. After no runs for Colby in the eighth and Garden in the ninth, Andy Leader singled to lead off the Colby ninth, and a sacrifice bunt got him to second, before a fly out suggested the Busters could go into the bottom half of the ninth needing just a single run to win the game, split the series and climb above .500 for the season.
But that was all undone by Lightley’s error, which came after he handled a tough chopper to his right.
“I don’t fault Ty,” Finnegan said. “He’s made plays for us all year … It just happened in a poor situation in the ninth inning.”
A Josh Diggins single brought in a second run in the frame, and the Buster offense went down 1-2-3 in the bottom half of the inning to seal the Colby win.
“It’s tough when you have big innings offensively, and then you give it back,” Finnegan said. “That wears on you. It wears on you mentally, and it wears on you physically, too.”
Now, the Busters, the eighth seed in the West, have the steep challenge of facing the East Division’s top-seeded Cowley squad in the first round of the Region VI Tournament.
The Tigers are 34-9 overall and 13th-ranked in the NJCAA. That best-of-three series is set for Friday through May 6 at Cowley.
In the earlier game Saturday, it was Garden City product Heiman leading the way to the Buster win. He gave up five hits, two walks and just one run across six innings, while striking out eight. Lakin’s Ryder Yakel closed out the game, giving up one run on two hits in the seven-inning Buster win to avoid the Colby sweep, after the Trojans won both games in Colby Thursday.
“I thought he had a great performance,” Finnegan said. “He commanded three pitches for a strike. He competed with his fastball. He’s gotten better as the year has gone on, so that’s good. He needs to do that for his future.”
Meanwhile, the Buster offense rallied for a pair of runs in the first, getting RBIs from Truslow’s double and Young’s single. They added single tallies in the fifth and the sixth on sacrifice flies by Lightley and Clint Allen, respectively.
Contact J. Levi Burnfin at firstname.lastname@example.org.