By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-Chris Finnegan was a little unsure about how his offense would look early in the season. Nine games in, his young squad is producing videogame-like numbers.
In their four games vs. Western Nebraska, Garden City scored 41 runs including 16 more on Saturday, taking the final two of the set 8-1 and 8-2 at Williams Stadium. The Broncbusters have now won seven straight after an 0-2 start.
In the first game, Garden City (7-2) got the party started in the bottom of the second with a leadoff triple by Clint Allen. Rafael Viella followed with a sacrifice fly to put the Broncbusters up 1-0.
After Austin Stone got the Cougars to go in order in the top of the third, Garden City used a two-out rally in the bottom half to add to their lead. With Alex Eskridge, who led off the frame with a single, at third, Alex Nielsen smoked a double to bring him around and extend the lead to 2-0. Western Nebraska (0-4) pitcher Alex Achtermann then walked Jesse Gonzales before a passed ball advanced the runners to second and third. Once Allen drew a five-pitch walk to load the bases, Viella roped a single that scored Nielsen and Gonzales making it 4-0.
Garden City broke the game open in the fourth.
With one out and the bases loaded, the stage was set for Nielsen, who delivered his biggest hit of the young season.
After fouling off two fastballs, the sophomore finally connected, sending a 1-2 pitch over the outfield wall for grand slam and an 8-0 cushion.
While the offense was cruising, Austin Stone was filthy on the hill, tossing seven shutout innings, allowing just one run, which came in the fourth on Brandon Bachar's RBI groundout. He struck out eight and retired 14 out of the final 16 batters he faced.
In the series finale, the Broncbusters had to come from behind.
The Cougars struck with two runs in the top of the third, thanks to back-to-back walks issued by Tanner Johnson to start the inning. After Garden City got a force out at second, Ty Benson singled home Ethan Howell to make it 1-0. Then Brock Randels drew a two-out walk to load the bases before Alex Achtermann hit a sac fly that scored Cole Williams from third to give Western Nebraska a 2-0 edge.
But whatever momentum Western Nebraska had, Garden City crushed in the sixth. And Cougars hurler Alex Oehme never knew what hit him; literally.
Viella singled off the righty to start things off. Jared Chick reached on Oehem's error. Ty Barclay then laid down a perfect sac bunt to move the runners to second and third before Eskridge singled Viella and Chick home. Roberson followed with an RBI single to make it 5-4, and Reynolds RBI groundout tied the game. Garden City took the lead for good when Roberson scored on a passed ball, capping off a five-run inning that saw the saw the Bronvbusters bat through the order.
Allen and Viella added run-scoring singles in the seventh to make it 8-2.
Ryder Yakel, picked up the win in relief, striking out two and walking two in an inning of work. Johnson lasted 2.1 innings, allowing one earned run and one hit while issuing three free passes and fanning two.
Oehme was tagged with the loss for Western Nebraska, giving up three earned runs in 1.6 innings. He walked three.
Next up: Garden City at Lamar-Wednesday, Feb. 15-2 p.m. first pitch—No Radio