There has been enough bad karma for the Garden City Community College baseball team that sometimes it seems that no matter what, they're going to find a way to lose.
That’s the way it’s been for the Broncbusters in a roller-coaster, sometimes yo-yo-like season.
But on Sunday afternoon at Williams Stadium, the Busters found a way to do something they had not accomplished all season — complete a four-game series sweep of a Jayhawk Conference opponent.
It didn’t come easily, though, as the Busters had to rally in both ends of a doubleheader that had been pushed back 24 hours due to Saturday’s nasty winter-like weather.
In the opener, the Busters scored two runs each in the sixth and seventh innings to rally for a 6-5 victory over the Pratt Beavers, before duplicating the feat in the second game, pushing across two runs in the bottom of the ninth, the last coming on a walk-off single from Robbie Young that produced a wild and wooly 12-11 triumph over the stunned Beavers.
It was, for all practical purposes, a snapshot of the Busters’ spring season, albeit this time around they found a way to win two games rather than giving them away late.
But they sure tried to make it hard on themselves, as coach Chris Finnegan would later say. At times, it looked like the Busters wanted to bring the broom out for the potential sweep, only to put it back in the closet, and then repeat the process multiple times throughout the afternoon. At the end, the broom came out for the sweep.
“We got lucky, very lucky in the second game,” Finnegan said. “We just happened to get one extra bounce and that was the difference. We sure didn’t play like we deserved to win, but we were fortunate to take advantage. Our guys battled, but you can’t continue to give free bases. Against good teams, that will cost us because the better teams will beat you if you play like that.”
The Sunday broom job followed the Busters’ Thursday twin wins at Pratt by scores of 5-4 and 18-7, and was a prelude to Sunday’s effort.
In the opening drama-filled game, it was Ty Lightley who delivered the game-winner, driving a single to right center with two outs to score Darrien Burns, who had reached on an error by Pratt’s second baseman as the ball rolled all the way to the fence, with Burns finishing on third.
Earlier, in the sixth, with the Busters down 3-2, former Garden High standout Griff Brunson tied the game with a single to left, scoring Burns. Clint Allen then hit a rocket off the base of the left field wall into the teeth of a 15 mph wind that scored Brunson with the then go-ahead run.
Pratt tied and then took the lead with a pair of runs in the top of the seventh that set the stage for the Busters’ final at-bat heroics.
“It felt good to get the wins, especially with the way we’ve given some games away this year,” said sophomore right-handed reliever Ryder Yakel, a former Lakin standout, who pitched the final one and two-thirds innings and picked up the victory. “I let a couple of runs get in (unearned due to a GCCC error), but it’s our first sweep. The guys have worked really hard to get this, and with the roller-coaster season, I’m happy to finally get this one.”
For Brunson, being right in the midst of not one, but two late-inning rallies, is just what he enjoys.
“I think everyone wants to be that player who can come up with the big play in that situation,” a smiling Brunson said afterward. “It just feels good to help the team and contribute to a win.”
It was Brunson’s sacrifice fly, his second of the nightcap, that tied the game at 11 in the bottom of the ninth just before Allen followed with a bunt to re-load the bases. Young then came up with the big RBI single to cap off a crazy win.
The second game was certainly one of ups and downs, momentum changes and the lead teetering back-and-forth.
The Busters scored two runs in each of the first and second innings to go up 4-0. They held that margin until the Beavers’ fifth and sixth innings, when they scored four and five runs, respectively, to seemingly take the air out of the Busters’ momentum balloon.
But this was not your usual game.
The Busters responded with six runs off four hits and three issued walks to push across six runs in the bottom of the sixth to jump back on top 10-9. But that lead was extinguished when Pratt scored a tying run in the top of the eighth and then took the lead with a single tally in its half of the ninth.
Once again, however, the Busters came up with clutch plays and a close call that went in their favor in the ninth.
Burns had opened with a single before Lightley sent an opposite field ball slicing away from right-fielder Gage Axline, who stretched for the ball right on the foul line as the ball glanced off his glove. The home plate umpire ruled it fair, with Burns and Lightley ending up on third and second to set the stage for Brunson and then Young to deliver the clinchers.
“I think we just remained focus and to keep playing hard, as coach Finnegan told us,” Brunson said. “We’re still making little mistakes that cost us, but I thought the offensive until battled and fought for our runs today.”
The offense produced 24 hits in the sweep, with Truslow finishing with five hits and three RBIs, Burns four hits, Lightley four hits and three runs driven home, and Brunson with three hits and three RBIs.
The sweep allowed the Busters to improve their season record to 24-21 and 10-14 in the Jayhawk Conference. That sets up their final two series of the regular season, starting Thursday with a home twin bill against Seward County before visiting Liberal on Saturday. The Thursday first pitch is slated for noon while Saturday’s games begin at 1 p.m. Pratt, meanwhile, saw its record slip to 15-28 overall and 7-21 in the KJCCC.
Contact Brett Marshall at email@example.com.