Thursday gave the Garden City Broncbusters baseball team some hope of a home postseason series.
Saturday, the season-long problems of allowing free bases completely tanked those hopes as the Busters were routed, 22-2 and 12-7, by visiting Cloud County at Williams Stadium.
The Busters had won both ends of Thursday’s twin bill in Concordia, 6-0 and 2-1, which significantly helped Garden City’s shot at ending up in the top four of the KJCCC West.
But on Saturday, Garden City’s pitching staff gave up 19 walks and hit six batters and the defense committed 10 combined errors in perhaps the worst day of the Busters’ season.
“We didn’t play good baseball,” GCCC head coach Chris Finnegan said. “That’s what happened. You give free bases, we kicked nine baseballs on the day, give up probably 20 walks and 10 HBPs, and that’s close to 40 free bases on the day, and you’re not going to win a game or a series like that.”
The Busters fell to 26-21 overall and 12-16 in the West. They are all but cemented into their seventh-place spot, a full three games behind sixth-place Barton and fifth-place Seward County, and four games behind fourth-place Cloud County with one series to play.
Garden City takes on second-place Butler to end the regular season on May 2 and 4, and the Busters are hoping to put forward a much better effort than Saturday’s.
“How we played, it goes back to your attitude and effort, and it wasn’t there today,” Finnegan said.
Connery O’Donnell walked nine batters in 2 ⅓ innings, Steve Ramos four in one inning and the Busters’ defense committed six errors, allowing the T-Birds to score 22 runs on just nine hits in the run-run shortened blowout.
The T-Birds scored four runs in the first, capped by Tylor Jans’ two-run double off O’Donnell. They exploded for six more in the third, helped along by four walks and a Buster error. Jackson Dietel capped that rally with a two-run single to center.
In the fourth, everything fell apart. Ramos walked three and hit two batters, before getting pulled for Emanuel Nunez, who allowed another walk and hit another batter. Meanwhile, the defense gave up three errors, one by Sean Klein at second and two by Dakota Finley at third, leading to nine Cloud County runs.
By the end, the T-Birds led 19-0. Another error in the fifth led to the 20th run in the fifth, and Jans doubled again to drive in two more to make it 22-0.
The Busters got two meaningless runs in the bottom half of the inning.
O’Donnell gave up nine runs — just two earned — on three hits and six walks in 2 ⅓, and Ramos gave up nine runs — four earned — on three hits and three walks in a single inning of work.
Josh Laukkanen earned the win for Cloud, recording the complete game and giving up four hits and two walks, striking out three.
Cloud took the first lead on an RBI triple by Connor Laux in the third, and the Busters drew even in the bottom half of the inning when Corbin Truslow doubled to center to plate Dyan Rodriguez.
But Cloud County exploded in the fourth off Jacob Douglas, who was making just his fourth start of the season. The T-Birds racked up five singles, a walk and a double, to score five runs, capped by Laux’s RBI single, knocking out Douglas in the process.
“We were looking for Douglas to give us what he could,” Finnegan said of giving Douglas the spot start. “My magic number was four innings with him, and we got him to the fourth, we got him in a situation, and it just spiraled out of control for him. We couldn’t stop it.”
Jans homered in the fifth to push the lead to 7-1, before Garden CIty’s offense answered with three runs in the bottom half, including a solo home run by Truslow.
But in the sixth, the Buster defense self destructed once again, with three-consecutive errors leading to four Cloud County runs and a 10-4 lead, and then eventually an 11-4 lead.
Truslow plated one run with a groundout, and then Klein doubled to left to cut the deficit to 11-6 in the seventh. Laux drove in his third RBI of the game with a single in the eighth, before Griffin Brunson got that run back in the bottom half with an RBI single of his own.
That was all Garden City could manage, disappointingly splitting the four-game series.
The Busters used seven pitchers to get through the inning innings, and only Jordan Yates and Darrian Escobar-Winter recorded scoreless appearances. Jackson Dietel went seven innings for Cloud, giving up six runs on seven hits and two walks, picking up the win. Corbin Peters tossed the final two innings, giving up two hits and one run.
“The big picture, it’s been the same story all year,” Finnegan said. “We give ourselves a chance win games, but we give it right back to the other team. We haven’t let a lot of teams earn wins. We’ve given them a lot.”