By Tim Boulware
Pratt, KS-The Pratt Beavers coming into Sunday's doubleheader with Garden City were the best stolen base team in the Jayhawk and the 17th best in the nation. While Garden City limited them to one stolen bag on the day, Pratt used the long ball instead going deep four times and earning a split with the Broncbusters.
The Broncbusters took the first game 6-3, but could not hold on in game two losing a one-run lead in the ninth as the Beavers came back to win 7-6.
In game one, Ryder Yakel (5-3) dominated for a full five innings and finished one out shy of his fourth complete game. The Broncbuster offense supported Yakel with a 5-0 lead through five.
Garden scored three runs off Pratt starting pitcher Nathan McBroom in the second; all of them with two outs. Alex Eskridge's single brought in Ty Barclay with the first run and Aeneas Roberson, who bumped up to the second spot in the order, doubled to left plating two only to have Billy Clark thrown out at home trying to score the third run.
The Broncbusters (27-22, 12-14) added Connor Reynolds solo shot off McBroom (2-5) in the fourth inning. It was Reynolds 15th homer of the year and 25th at Garden City, giving the Broncbusters a 4-0 lead.
Clint Allen added a wind-aided single over the head of Pratt second baseman Anthony Romer in the fifth pushing Garden City to a 5-0 lead.
Yakel had a little trouble finishing his day on the mound. In the sixth, right fielder Ben Van Diest went yard to left for the sixth time this year preventing Garden from getting their second shutout of the season. The solo blast made it 5-1 Broncbusters.
After Garden City scored an unearned run in the seventh off Beavers reliever Tanner Kleinsasser, Yakel served up a two-run homer in the seventh to Pratt first baseman Josh Jones; his first of the year in his 29th game. After Yakel recorded the first two outs and then allowed Daniel Johnson's single to right, he was lifted from the game.
Yakel, who surrendered just two singles over the first five innings, allowed four hits including two homers over the last two. Lefty Mitchell Savine came on to get the final out, but first he coughed up Romer's single up the middle, getting the potential tying runner to the plate.
With power hitting Van Diest up, Savine had him hit a sinking line drive to right, which was caught by Billy Clark sliding on his chest.
In game two, Pratt jumped out early on Garden City starting pitcher Nick Iossi, who was making his first collegiate start after eleven relief appearances this year. The first inning started rough as three runs crossed for Pratt (20-28, 7-19).
As part of a four RBI second game, including the eventual game winner, shortstop Tynan Hofferle drove in two on a single and then Josh Jones knocked in Van Diest on his own single but was thrown out trying to stretch his single into a double before Hofferle could score the fourth run.
Pratt's lead would not last long as Billy Clark answered in the second and brought Garden City even at 3-3 with a three-run triple off Pratt starting pitcher Dylan Hamilton.
"I thought we swung (the bat) well," Garden City Head Coach Chris Finnegan said. "It was a tough day to hit. They (Pratt) stayed away, away, away and I really thought we hit some balls hard to right field. Unfortunately, you are hitting it right into the wind, but we just kept going and having good at bats with two outs."
Broncbuster third baseman Alex Nielsen broke the tie in the fourth with a double to score Clark all the way from first to give Garden City a 4-3 advantage. Nielsen was on fire during the doubleheader going 5-for-9 with two doubles, run scored and two RBI.
Iossi, who made the spot start because Connor Burns was dealing with an arm issue, gutted out four innings but could not leave with the lead when he gave up Pratt catcher Trevor Wetzel's game-tying solo homer in the fourth inning. For Wetzel it was his second homer of the year.
Wetzel took from the Broncbusters and then gave right back in the sixth when, after reliever Zack Courbat struck out Billy Clark on a pitch in the dirt, Wetzel's throw airmailed his first baseman bringing Clark to second base. Clark eventually scored the go-ahead run in the sixth giving Garden City the lead again at 5-4.
Ty Barclay added an insurance run on a solo homer in the seventh off Courbat making it 6-4 Broncbusters.
One thing that haunted Garden City in the second game was men left on base. The Broncbusters left the bases loaded twice. In the third, after Barclay was hit by a pitch for the second time by Hamilton, shortstop Ty Light popped out to short with the bases loaded.
Garden City also had the sacks full in the eighth, but Clint Allen flied out to left against the sidewinding reliever for the Beavers Jacob Compton (1-3). Compton retired all four he faced from the bullpen and would eventually get the win.
Trailing 6-4, Pratt chipped the lead down to one on Hofferle's solo homer on a 0-2 pitch off Garden City reliever Michael Dzjurgot leading off the eighth inning. It was Hofferle's fourth homer of the year. Dzjurgot did settle down, retiring the next three batters in order to end the inning.
Ray Monje sought his fourth save of the year and his 10th as a Broncbuster in the ninth inning. He was able to get the first batter Elijah Boyer to ground out. Then Daniel Johnson walked, Anthony Romer singled, and after a wild pitch, Ben Van Diest was intentionally walked loading the bases.
With the one-run lead in danger, Monje was able to get pinch hitter Claytin Beaver to hit a one hop comeback right of the mound. Monje eyeing home and a force out to prevent the tying runner from scoring, slipped; his ankle buckling out from under him. He regained his balance, but his throw to first drew Jesse Gonzales off the bag.
All hands were safe. The tying run scored, and Monje (0-2) was relieved by Mitchell Savine. Unlike the first game where Savine earned his first save, it took one pitch for the game to end as Hofferle drove the ball deep to left center and over the head of outfielder Rafael Villela for the game-winning hit.
For Garden City, the heartbreaking defeat marked their 15th loss this season by three runs or less.
"We played well,"Finnegan said. "We just didn't play well for one inning, and that's the crazy thing about this game."
Next up: Garden City at Pratt-Monday, April 24-12:45 p.m. pregame; 1 p.m. on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app