By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-Austin Stone's comeback tour is off to a good start.
Stone was nearly unhittable in the opener while the bullpen finished off Western Nebraska in game two, completing a two-game sweep with a 4-2 and 9-3 win Sunday afternoon at Williams Stadium.
In game one, Stone threw a complete-game gem, allowing just two runs while scattering five hits. His only blemish over the first four innings was a double allowed to Esai Hernandez in the second and a triple yielded to Cole Williams in the third.
Meantime the offense gave the sophomore hurler a lead to work with in the bottom of the fourth when Ty Barclay hit a leadoff triple off of Western Nebraska starter Alex Oehme; then scored on Ty Lightley's sacrifice fly. But the advantage didn't last long when Cole Williams slapped an RBI single before the Cougars plated another run on Robbie Young's fielding error at first in the fifth, giving Western Nebraska (0-2) a 2-1 lead.
"Austin pitched really well; gave us a good start in game one," Head Coach Chris Finnegan said afterwards.
The Broncbusters quickly tied the score in the bottom half on Barclay's RBI groundout that scored Corbin Truslow from third. With runners at first and third and a chance to retake the lead, Lightley grounded out harmlessly to short ending the threat.
After Stone retired the Cougars in order in the sixth, Young atoned for his earlier miscue in the bottom of the frame by mashing a triple down the leftfield line. Corbin Truslow followed with a double, and Chris Lara knocked him in with a scorching single to right, giving Garden City (5-2, 0-0) a 4-2 advantage.
"We just found a way," Finnegan said.
Stone then polished off another solid outing by striking out Tommy McRill and getting Brandon Maher and Mitch Lightbody to fly out in the seventh. The sophomore improved to 2-0. Zach Berg took the loss for Western Nebraska, allowing three runs on four hits in two innings of relief. Oehme scattered five hits over four innings while giving up only one run.
In game two, the Broncbusters again had to come from behind. After getting through the first inning with no problems, true freshman Eric Heiman ran into some trouble in the second. Williams reached on an error, then scored on Cooper Buchhammer's RBI single. Harrison Yates smashed a run-scoring double before Hernandez's RBI single gave the Cougars a 3-0 edge.
"Eric didn't have his best stuff in the second game, but we got through it," Finnegan said. "He gave us three big outs when we needed them."
Garden City got a run back in the bottom of the second on Lightley's RBI base hit; then tied the game in the third when Paxton Robinson cleared the bases with a two-run double.
"The guys responded when they fell behind, which was all that mattered," Finnegan said.
An inning later, with the bases packed, Corbin Truslow hit a rainbow that dropped into the alley, scoring Young, Clint Allen and Griff Brunson. A few batters later, Barclay hit a sharp ball to second that allowed Truslow to score from third, putting Garden City up 7-3.
"We found ways to score, and at the end of the day, we did what we needed to do," Finnegan said.
Garden City added some insurance in the fifth fueled by Truslow's RBI double to left, pushing the Broncbusters lead to 9-3. The bullpen did the rest.
Heiman picked up his second win of the season, allowing two earned runs on three hits in three innings. The bullpen followed suit by allowing just one hit over the final four innings.
Western Nebraska starter Claude Bova was pulled after two innings, allowing just one run on one hit.
Next up: Garden City closes their four-game series with Western Nebraska on Monday, first pitch at 1 p.m. at Williams Stadium