GCCC's early lead falls to Clarendon, 5-4

GCCC Sports Information Services
Garden City Community College Head Baseball Coach Chris Finnegan, center, talks with pitcher Noah Draper (15) and catcher Mason Brown (5) on the mound during a game last season at Williams Stadium.

CLARENDON, Texas - Free bases, a concept that drives Head Coach Chris Finnegan absolutely insane. And on Monday, Garden City Community College pitching issued seven of them; a number that surely won't sit well the veteran skipper. Neither will the fact that his bullpen couldn't hold an early lead.

Christopher Estrada collected two hits including a go-ahead solo shot in the sixth, and Clarendon came back to beat Garden City 5-4 at Bulldog Field.

Like they did in their opening series with Lamar, the Broncbusters took command early. Tyler Barth's RBI single and Blake Beauchene's run-scoring groundout put the road team up 2-0 after one. They made it 3-0 an inning later when Clarendon pitcher Rolando Fletes misplayed Danny Spongberg's bunt that allowed Mason Mitchell to score.  

But that vaunted free pass, the one that Finnegan so despises haunted them in the bottom of the second. Sage McMinn issued back-to-back walks to start the frame; then surrendered a bloop single to Cole Miears. Two batters later, Beauchene let a breaking ball ricochet off of his glove allowing a run to score. That pushed Finnegan to bring in Shane Miller, who did major damage control; first fanning Leo Jiminian on a 1-2 slider; then getting JC Reed to line out. Disaster avoided, at least for the moment.

The Broncbusters even extended the lead in the fourth when Spongberg pushed a ground ball deep enough to the right side of the infield that allowed Mitchell, who drew a leadoff walk, to come around, extending Garden City's cushion to 4-1.

Unfortunately, things started to go south in the fifth. With one on nobody out, Estrada smoked a ball to right, scoring Kevin Bermudez from second to cut the Broncbusters lead in half. Then the game flipped in the sixth. Ibrahim Rodriguez booted a ball at third, Jiminian hit a line-drive single to left, and Pierre-Emmanuel Planes scored on a wild pitch. That set the table for Estrada, who took advantage of Michael Thorne's elevated fastball and parked it over the fence in left for a 5-4 Clarendon lead.

Meantime the Broncbusters spoiled their chances to tie or take the lead the rest of the way. In the seventh, they had two on and two out before Rodriguez flied out to center. In the eighth, Finnegan's squad failed to take advantage of Will Gardner's one-out pinch-hit single. Even in the ninth, the Broncbusters brought the go-ahead run to the plate after Kyle Jameson drew a six-pitch walk. But Ryan Muniz was out in front of a change up and popped out to second before Barth's groundout ended the game.

Garden City starter Sage McMinn lasted just 1 1/3 innings, allowing one run on two hits while walking four. The bullpen surrendered the rest, giving up four runs over 6 2/3.

Fletes, who started the game for Clarendon, allowed three runs on two hits in two innings.

Garden City will be in action at McCook, Neb. on Tuesday, Feb. 16 for a 3 p.m. game.