While the Garden City Broncbusters split Saturday’s baseball doubleheader at Cloud County with the Thunderbirds, they were able to win the conference-opening series after Thursday’s sweep of the home twin bill.

With the new conference series format of home-and-away doubleheaders every Thursday and Saturday each week, the Busters and T-Birds had a day in between meeting up for twin bills.

It seemed to help Cloud County the most, as the T-Birds exploded for a 14-2, run-rule shortened win in Saturday’s opener. But the Busters were able to rebound for a 9-6 win in the nightcap and series finale.

The Busters are now 15-7 overall and 3-1 in the KJCCC, tied atop the West Division as no West team recorded a sweep in the first weekend of conference play. Butler and Colby also are 3-1. Cloud County is 1-3, alongside Hutchinson and Dodge City, while Seward County and Pratt split their four-game series. Barton has yet to open conference play.

The Busters now take on Butler in their next series, with Thursday’s opening twin bill in El Dorado set for a 1 p.m. first pitch. Garden City then hosts the Grizzlies Saturday at the same starting time.

Cloud County 14, Garden City 2

Buster starter Jacob Douglas lasted just two-plus innings, but gave up 10 runs on 10 hits, including three home runs. Five of those runs came in the second inning, during which Cloud County hit a pair of home runs. Then, Douglas went out for the third inning and gave up four-consecutive singles before being pulled.

But the damage was already done, and the Buster offense managed just two runs through five innings, leading to the early stoppage of play.

Luis Landaeta was 3 for 3 for Cloud County in the blowout, with a pair of two-run home runs and a two-run single. Ty Lightley had the only multi-hit day for the Busters, going 2 for 2, while Ty Barclay had a home run.

Garden City 9, Cloud County 6

Cloud County’s offense kept the first game’s fireworks going early in the nightcap, racking up four runs off Buster starter Ryder Yakel in the first inning, sparked by Enrique Gonzalez’s two-run home run to tie it at 2-2, before Cloud took a 4-2 lead into the second.

But Yakel settled down after that, and gave the Buster offense time to rally, which they did to tie it in the third on Clint Allen’s leadoff home run, and then Ty Barclay’s RBI single later in the inning. In the fourth, the Busters took the lead on Griffin Brunson’s RBI double, and he was later brought in on Robbie Young’s single. Young hit a first-inning, two run home run that had given the Busters an early lead.

When Yakel got into more trouble in the fifth with two outs, he was relieved by Paxton Robinson, who induced a flyout to end the threat and with the Busters hanging on to a 6-5 lead.

Lightley’s RBI single in the seventh pushed the advantage back to two, before Cloud County cut it back to one in the eighth. But the Busters added two insurance runs in the ninth, and Brandt Sobczak closed out the game in the ninth for the save, allowing just a single in between three groundouts.

Yakel’s final line was 4 2/3 innings, seven hits, five runs and five strikeouts. He fell an out short of the five-inning threshold starters need to eclipse in order to earn a win. Instead, Nick Iossi got the win for his 2 2/3-inning outing, in which he gave up an unearned run on two hits, a walk and four strikeouts. It was his first win of the season.

Allen, Young, ReJean Bourget and Lightly all had two hits for the Busters, who had 14 total. Brunson had a hit and walked three times.