By Mike Pilosof
Roswell, NM-Conner Reynolds has definitely been the story for the Broncbusters through 14 games.
But during Saturday's final two contests vs. New Mexico Military, it was his teammate Alex Nielsen that outshined everyone.
Nielsen recorded four of his seven hits on the day in game three, he also knocked in four runs as Garden City completed a four-game sweep of the Broncos 11-8 and 9-1 at J.P. White Field.
"Their stadium is kind of a crackerjack box; the ball really flies out," Garden City Coach Chris Finnegan said afterwards. "Credit our guys; they took advantage."
There was plenty of offense in the first game Saturday, as the two teams combined for 26 hits. Nielsen set the stage early for Garden City (11-3) with a one-out, RBI double that gave the Broncbusters a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Rafael Viella eventually brought the sophomore around to score on a run-scoring single that made it 2-0.
"We're hitting the ball pretty well right now," Finnegan said. "Especially in key situations."
But the Broncos put up a four-spot in the bottom half, thanks to Jordan Williams, towering three-run shot off of Austin Stone. Two batters later, McCoy Pearce took Stone deep for a 4-2 New Mexico Military (6-6) advantage.
"I really thought that we needed to pitch well and play really good defense knowing where we were playing," Finnegan said.
Stone would eventually settle down, allowing only one run over his next four innings of work. His final stat line: five earned runs on nine hits and four strikeouts in five innings.
"I thought we got four quality starts," Finnegan said.
The Broncbusters regained their footing in the second. Alex Eskridge roped a one-out double, Aeneas Roberson and Reynolds were hit by pitches to load the bases before Nielsen came through again, singling home two to tie the game 4-4. Viella followed with a two-run triple, which ended Broncos starter Zach Gonzales' day. Later in the frame, Viella scored on a passed ball putting Garden City up 7-2.
"We're getting early offense; that's for sure," Finnegan added.
He also has one of the hottest hitters in the country in Reynolds, who drilled his sixth home run of the year in the fourth to extend Garden City's advantage to 8-2.
New Mexico Military got one back in the fifth on McCoy Pearce's sacrifice fly, but the Bronbusters tallied two more in the sixth when Shane Podesdnik smashed a double to the gap with the bases loaded that plated two.
Following Angel Colon's RBI single in the sixth that cut the Broncbusters lead to 10-6, it was Nielsen again, singling home Roberson with two outs.
The Broncos scored two in the bottom of the seventh to pull to within three, but never put the tying run aboard.
Stone improved to 2-0 on the bump this season while his counterpart Gonzales took the loss, allowing six earned runs on seven hits in just 1.3 innings of work.
In the final game of the set, Broncbuster starter Kendrick Catron had everything working. He held the Broncos scoreless over six innings while allowing just five hits and striking out seven. It was his first win of the season.
"I really though we got our best start from Kendrick," Finnegan said. "He was really good."
And he got plenty of help from his offense.
Garden City scored in four straight innings, and jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Nielsen's first-inning, RBI single. In the second, the Broncbusters used a two-out rally. Ty Lightley drew a four-pitch walk, Eskridge singled before Roberson brought him around on a triple. Moments later, Lightley came across on catcher Michael Salcido's error to make it 3-0.
"These were four really good games of team baseball," Finnegan said.
In the third, the Broncbusters added two more when Jesse Gonzales singled home Clint Allen and Viella crossed the plate on a wild pitch thrown by Justin Moskowitz. In the fourth, Reynolds bat did the talking, blasting his nation-leading seventh homer of the season: a two-run shot that made it 7-0. Allen added a run-scoring double that pushed the lead to 8-0. Gonzales's RBI single in the sixth capped the scoring for Garden City.
The Broncos added a meaningless run in the seventh off reliever Michael Sweetman.
During their four-game sweep of New Mexico Military, Garden City totaled 30 runs, bringing their season total to 96. They are currently 17th in the nation in that department.
Next up: Garden City vs. Lamar-Wednesday, Feb. 22-1 p.m. at Williams Stadium-No Radio