If this is what the conference season is going to look like then it is going to be an exciting spring.
The Garden City Baseball team (13-8, 1-1) nearly lost a three-run lead in the opener and fell a run short from coming back down 7-2 to split the first two games of a four-game series against the defending Jayhawk Western Division champs from last year Colby (8-8, 1-1). Both games ended up 7-6.
In the first game Connor Burns, a second team all-conference pitcher from last year, went the distance despite encountering trouble late when Garrett Kirkwood doubled in a run and Andy Leader singled in another to make it a 7-6 game. Burns struck out Trojan designated hitter Adam Cook for his seventh punch-out of the game to seal up the one-run win.
The Broncbusters jumped out to an early lead on Colby starting pitcher Chase Dreger. Clint Allen had an RBI double off the wall in left and Jesse Gonzales added an RBI single; although Billy Clark was thrown out by leftfielder Sam Poliquin.
Aeneas Roberson added a sacrifice fly in the second for Garden before Colby tied it with a three-run bottom of the second on Ryley Humrighouse's RBI single, Burns wild pitch brought in the second run and Brian Granton's RBI single.
Garden City right fielder Billy Clark broke the 3-3 tie in the third with an RBI triple to right center scoring Allen. Connor Reynolds stretch the lead to 6-3 with a two-run single off Trojans reliever C.J. Bertram, but was thrown out at second on right fielder Andy Leader's great throw to the bag.
After Burns gave up an unearned run in the fourth, Gonzales knocked in his second run of the day with an RBI triple bringing in Allen and setting the stage for the drama in the final inning.
"I thought Connor Burns was really good today," Garden City Head Coach Chris Finnegan said "They (Colby) scratched a couple of runs, he made some good pitches, but that's what good hitters do."
With the win, Burns improved to 2-1 and notched his third complete game going six innings with seven hits. Five of the six runs against him were earned. The loss went to Dreger who went three innings and walked seven, allowed three hits and surrendered five earned runs.
Garden City starting pitcher Noah Foreman (1-2) struggled with his control, hitting back-to-back batters and serving up Andy Leader's two-run single as part of a three-run inning to give the Trojans a 3-0 lead.
Foreman would then settled down in scattering just two more hits over the next four innings. His offense finally figured out Colby starting pitcher Nick Vickers (1-2) in the fifth. Roberson added an RBI single plating Gonzales to make it 3-1 Colby. Garden City scored another run in the sixth on catcher Ty Barclay's squeeze bunt.
Garden City used three different relief pitchers in the sixth and gave up three bases loaded walks as part of a four-run inning making it 7-2 Trojans.
In the seventh, with two on, Alex Nielsen hammered a fly ball inside the leftfield foul pole for his second blast of the year. The three-run shot pulled Garden City to within two runs at 7-5.
"We're an RBI short from tying it," Finnegan said "We're a base hit short from tying it and possibly taking the lead, but that's part of the game."
The Broncbusters added another run in the eighth on shortstop Ty Lightley's bunt single scoring Ty Barclay, but Carlos Amador ended the threat striking out Connor Reynolds with both the tying and winning runs in scoring position, then working a 1-2-3 ninth to notch the save.
Next up: Garden City vs. Colby-Sunday, Mar. 5-12:45 p.m. pregame; 1 p.m. first pitch on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app