By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-Following his team's 0-2 start, Garden City Coach Chris Finnegan reminded his players of something that had been eating at him since they got on the bus and headed home from Trinidad, CO.
"I've never started a season 0-2 in my 12 years here," he said. "I just wanted to point that out. This is not acceptable."
His message must have been well received because Garden City has stormed back with three straight wins, including one on a day where the offense was not necessarily up to par.
Garden City took advantage of three McCook errors, and after the Indians fought back to tie the game in the ninth, Clint Allen delivered the game-winning sacrifice fly as the Broncbusters edged their Nebraska rivals 4-3 at Williams Stadium.
For most of the afternoon, Broncbuster freshman pitcher Kendrick Catron kept McCook (0-3) off balance, tossing four shutout innings while scattering six hits and striking out four.
While Catron kept the Indians bats at bay, Garden City (3-2) broke a scoreless game in the fifth, taking advantage of a couple of McCook miscues. First, Billy Clark, who led off the frame with a single, eventually came around to score on pitcher Chase Adams' throwing error. Later in the inning, Conner Reynolds doubled home Alex Eskridge, giving the Broncbusters a 2-0 edge.
Garden City added what appeared to be an insurance run in the sixth when Allen stole home. The play was set up after Allen led off the inning with a single. After Rafael Viella bunted into an out, Clark drew a walk. Moments later, Allen took third on back-to-back passed balls before eventually swiping home for a 3-0 advantage.
But McCook made things very interesting in the ninth.
Finnegan pulled reliever Mitchell Savine in favor of Nick Lossi, who struggled right from the start. He issued a seven-pitch walk to Dylan White before giving up a free pass to Charlie Hasty on seven tosses. Finnegan again went to his bullpen, calling on Dillan Feurestein, who got Keanu Van Kurgen to ground out, advancing the runners to second and third. After striking out CJ Neumann for the second out, Michael Sookdeo took the second pitch he saw and laced a single, scoring two. After yielding another base hit to Dominic Paratore, Joacb Sanford smashed a double to the gap, plating Sookdeo and tying the game 3-3. But the rally ended when Paratore was tagged out at home, attempting to score the go-ahead run.
Garden City had no plans of going to extra innings.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Aeneas Roberson and Reynolds hit back-to-back singles. McCook reliever KC Siwa then intentionally walked Alex Neilsen to load the bases. That set up Allen, who had arguably the best at bat of any Broncbuster on the day. After falling down 0-2, Allen fought back, eventually working the count in his favor 3-2. The ninth pitch of the sequence was a fastball that Allen got under enough, lifting it to center field and allowing Roberson to score the winning run.
Adams lasted six innings on the bump for the Indians, allowing three earned runs on five hits while striking out seven. Siwa, who came in in the ninth, took the loss.
Feurestein picked up the win for Garden City, striking out one in one inning of relief. He was one of eight pitchers used on the day for Finnegan.
Next up: Garden City vs. Western Nebraska-Friday, Feb. 10-1 p.m. and 3 p.m.—No Radio