The Garden City Community College baseball team never found its groove this season.
“We’d go through weekends where we pitched it very well, and we couldn’t swing it, or we’d swing it well and we couldn’t pitch it,” GCCC head coach Chris Finnegan said on Monday, after his Busters’ season was ended in a two-game sweep at the hands of Cowley in the Region VI first round.
They finished the season at 26-29 overall, only the second time the Busters have finished below .500 in Finnegan’s 14 years at the helm, and the first time since 2008.
“We just couldn’t get anything going in the right direction at the same time,” Finnegan said. “It’s disappointing, but in the end, the guys played hard and that’s all I could really ask them to do.”
The Busters’ staff ERA was 6.82, its worst since before at least 2013. But it wasn’t that far off from last season’s 6.46 ERA.
But combined with the program’s least productive offense since 2013 — hitting .290 with a .407 on-base percentage and a .453 slugging mark — and the Busters had a hard time racking up wins.
They won just two conference series all year — the first came over Cloud County in the conference opening series, and that was just prior to the Busters getting swept by Butler.
“I thought we were overachieving a little bit early,” Finnegan said, “but we were playing well. Then, the whole Butler series happened … we fell apart after that for about two weeks.”
They went 2-7 in the conference after that, until beating Hutchinson to avoid a sweep in Game 4 of that series, before sweeping Pratt to essentially assure the Busters would still reach the region tournament — the top eight of the nine KJCCC West teams qualify.
And there were other highlights for the Busters, as well, as sophomores Clint Allen, Robbie Young and Ty Barclay had big offensive seasons. Allen hit .350, with a .452 OBP and six home runs, and Young hit .356 with a .474 OBP and eight home runs.
Barclay hit .310 with a .452 OBP and 15 extra-base hits.
Some freshmen hitters stood out, as well, as Corbin Truslow, who was playing football a year ago at the Colorado School of Mines, led the team with 18 home runs (tying for the conference lead) and 75 RBIs, while hitting .366 and a .485 OBP.
Garden City product Griff Brunson had a solid collegiate debut, as well, hitting .267 with a .410 OBP and 11 extra-base hits while starting most games at second base.
Freshmen RJ Bourget also racked up 127 at-bats, setting the Busters up with a decent offensive core for next season.
But the Busters’ biggest boon for next year is definitely their pitchers, as four of their top five pitchers in innings pitched were freshmen — Auston Stone (5-4, 6.72 ERA), Eric Heiman (5-3, 4.25 ERA), Jacob Douglas (4-3, 8.16 ERA) and Paxton Robinson (2-2, 7.41 ERA).
“I think it helps, especially on the mound,” Finnegan said. “We’re going to be young again next year, though. We’ve got to bring in better athletes, and our guys know that. But we have guys who played enough this year that can contribute in a lot of ways next year.”
And next year, judging by past history — the Busters won 45 games in 2009, the year after Finnegan’s only other sub-.500 team — likely will be looking to make a statement.
“In the end, I really like our recruiting class, and I like the guys that are coming back,” Finnegan said. “We’ve got to get them all going in the right direction at the same time. It was just tough this year.”