JJ Benes leads Busters past Coffeyville with shutout in regionals
By J. LEVI BURNFIN
By J. LEVI BURNFIN
One of the consistent themes throughout the Broncbusters' baseball season has been solid pitching. It was something they lacked in 2013 when they were two-and-out of the Region VI tournament last May.
But this year, they had pitching in spades, and that proved to be the trumping factor in the Busters' 1-0 Region VI Championship tournament opening win over Coffeyville at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita Friday.
"It was just one of those really good junior college baseball games that you rarely see," head coach Chris Finnegan said of the pitchers' duel that advanced the Busters to today's 4 p.m. quarterfinal against Kansas City, which defeated the East's top-seeded Johnson County 3-2 Friday.
Busters' starter JJ Benes tossed his first nine-inning complete game of the season, striking out five Red Ravens as he pitched in and out of small jams for the shutout. Yet, Coffeyville's starter Carlos D'Armas matched Benes pitch for pitch, keeping the Busters at bay through five innings, until the Busters were able to convert a run with a bit of small ball.
Kaleb Zimmer and Rocky Desantis led off the bottom of the sixth with a single each, and No. 4 hitter Nolan Barrientos laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third with just one out. It was only Barrientos' fourth sac bunt all season, but it was crucial as, after Tyler Alitz was intentionally walked, Francisco Alvarez hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Zimmer, the one and only run of the game.
"We executed it well," Finnegan said. "All day, both teams really squared up the ball, but it wasn't really going anywhere. If the wind was blowing out, it could have been a complete different game."
But it wasn't, and Alvarez' sac fly was the difference.
"It was like a heavyweight fight," Finnegan said. "We punched a couple of times, and they counter-punched. We both made some plays, and both pitchers made some pitches when they needed it."
Benes allowed nine and a pair of walks across nine innings to increase his record to 9-3.
Several times the Red Ravens threatened, though, including getting a runner to third in the first two innings.
But the biggest threat came in the fourth when the Ravens loaded the bases with just one out. But Matt Salamon lined into a unassisted double play to first base to end the inning.
The Ravens stranded nine runners throughout the game.
Meanwhile, D'Armas gave up just six hits and three walks in eight innings, suffering his first loss of the season at 6-1.
The Busters (37-21) now face Kansas City (37-20) at 4 p.m. today at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
"They're scrappy," Finnegan said of the Blue Devils. "They don't make mistakes. They'll put pressure on you and see how you handle it."
The Blue Devils will likely have freshman left-hander Hunter Phillips on the mound. He owns an 8-6 record in 20 appearances, nine starts, with a 4.58 ERA.
The Busters will counter with Chris Bonk, who is 10-0 with a 3.24 ERA.
Coffeyville 000 000 000 -- 0 9 1
Garden City 000 001 00x -- 1 6 1
D'Armas and Moore. Benes and Alvarez. W--Benes (9-3). L--D'Armas (6-1). 2B--Coffeyville, Rader, Spring. 3B--Coffeyville, Hernandez.