The 2018 Garden City Community College baseball season ended with just the second losing record in head coach Chris Finnegan’s 14 years at the helm of the program.
The Broncbusters went 26-29, finished eighth in the nine-team KJCCC West and was quickly swept out of the Region VI tournament in the first round.
It was — by far — the Busters’ worst season since 2008.
They’re looking to wipe the memory of that season with Friday’s 1 p.m. opener at Northeastern Junior College, where they will play a four-game series in Sterling, Colo. The series was originally scheduled to be played in Garden City, but due to recent snow storms, Williams Stadium is not playable, yet — that means the Busters have to hit the road to open the season.
But the Busters have followed their head coach’s lead, as Finnegan tweeted a week ago about the Busters’ inability to practice on their home field, ‘We don’t care. We embrace it.’
“I’m looking forward to it,” sophomore pitcher Eric Heiman said of opening the season. “I’m looking to redeem ourselves from last year … We’ve got a great group of guys, a lot of freshmen, really good players. I feel like we can go pretty far this year.”
The Busters have just nine sophomore returners, with 25 freshmen filling out the rest of the roster. But Heiman still sees an improvement over last year’s roster.
“Our whole lineup are really good hitters from top to bottom,” he said. “They can swing it really well. Pitching-wise, we don’t have the speed, but we have guys who can spot up and locate and just be dudes for us on the mound.”
Heiman, a right-hander, will be the anchor of that staff as he opens the year as the Busters’ No. 1 starter, after posting a 5-3 record with a 4.25 ERA in 13 appearances (10 starts, 59.1 innings) as a freshman. He struck out 54 and walked 22.
The Busters also return right-hander Jacob Douglas, who was 4-3 with an 8.16 ERA in 16 appearances (six starts, 57.1 innings) a year ago. The other two weekend starters to begin the year will be freshmen, right-hander Malachi Crone (Round Rock, Texas) and left-hander Jordan Yates (Buena Vista, Colo.).
Also returning to the pitching staff are Paxton Robinson (34 inn., 7.41 ERA) and Ryan Nason (13.1 inn., 14.17 ERA).
As for the lineup, Finnegan said it’s still up in the air as of Thursday evening, but sophomore returner Corbin Truslow is sure to be in the heart of the order.
Truslow was clearly the Busters’ best hitter a year ago, racking up 18 home runs and 14 doubles, with a .366 batting average, .485 on-base percentage and a .763 slugging.
Also returning from a year ago are Chris Lara (162 ABs, .228 AVG, 2 HRs), Griffin Brunson (161 ABs, .410 OBP, 15 SBs), Alec Eskanazi (23 ABs, .452 OBP) and Russell Cruz (49 ABs, .281 OBP). The rest of the lineup will be made up of all freshmen.
“I’m really confident with what we’ve got,” Truslow said. “All of them (freshmen) have been impressive.”