Nearly three weeks ago, as the Garden City Broncbusters baseball team was in the midst of what turned out to be four-consecutive series losses in KJCCC play, head coach Chris Finnegan wondered when his team would get a break.
“At some point in time, we’ll get a big hit with runners in scoring position,” he said then, as the Busters dropped a pair of games to Dodge City to lose the series three games to one.
On Thursday afternoon in Pratt, that big hit came, as Griff Brunson drove in the go-ahead runs on an 0-2 pitch double to left to break a 3-all tie in the sixth inning of the Busters’ 5-4 win in the opener.
“We’ve put ourselves in a lot of really good positions in games with a chance to win, and found ourselves on the losing end of them,” Finnegan said. “We finally got a big hit with runners in scoring position. We finally got it.”
And it seemed to spark the Busters’ offense, which exploded for an 18-7 win in Thursday’s nightcap, guaranteeing the Busters (22-21, 8-14) at least a split with the Beavers (15-26, 7-19) — which would be the first split or series win since the Busters opened conference with a 3-1 advantage over Cloud County on March 1 and 3.
Garden City 5, Pratt 4
After the Busters took an early 1-0 lead, Pratt rallied for three runs in the second off GCCC starter Austin Stone. But the damage could have been worse, as Pratt had the bases loaded with two outs, but Stone struck out Pratt’s No. 3 hitter Trace Maddux.
“We faced a very good, very underestimated offense,” Finnegan said of Pratt. “They’re very good.”
But when Stone got into a jam, he was able to get got out of it.
“He minimized it to three runs, and he got a punch out to end the inning,” Finnegan said. “One more hit from Pratt and it could have turned into a seven-run inning for them.”
That allowed the Busters to rally for single runs in the fourth and fifth innings, respectively, to tie it, before Brunson’s clutch double won it.
Stone got through five innings to earn the win, giving up four hits, four walks and three runs, while striking out four. Ryder Yakel allowed one unearned run in two innings of relief work to get the save.
Garden City 18, Pratt 7
Every hitter in the Buster lineup had at least one hit in the nightcap, as the Busters racked up 12 baseknocks. Corbin Truslow had four RBIs, and Ty Lightly had three, going 2 for 4, including a three-run home run in an 11-run fifth inning for the Busters.
“We had some really good at-bats,” Finnegan said. “We had three, four at-bats in that inning where we were down (in the count), and we worked it back to 2-2, 3-2, got a walk or got a hit. So you got to give our guys credit for battling until they got a pitch they can barrel up.”
The Busters also got a home run from Robbie Young in the first, as they took a 1-0 lead. Pratt made it 2-1 in the third, before the Busters and Pratt exchanged runs in the fourth to make it 3-2 Pratt. Then came the Busters’ big inning to take full control of the game.
“One hit in one situation (in Game 1), and things can start to click,” Finnegan said. “It can be contagious, and the good thing was it was contagious for us today.”
Buster starter Paxton Robinson only went three innings, so he did not qualify to get the win, giving up two runs on two hits and two walks.
Nick Iossi allowed a single run in his one-inning relief appearance, before Jacob Douglas closed out the run-rule shortened eight-inning game, giving up four runs on six hits in four innings of relief.
The Busters now host Pratt at noon Saturday at Williams Stadium for the Beavers’ return trip to Garden City.