By Mike Pilosof
El Dorado, KS-Garden City lost two games in basically the same fashion on Thursday.
A walk-off infield single and an error in the bottom of the 10th gave Butler two walk-off wins in their series opener with the Broncbusters at Grizzlies Park.
"These weren't difficult losses because we didn't earn anything today," Head Coach Chris Finnegan said.
In the opener, Garden City (15-9, 3-3) took the early lead with two runs in the top of the first. Griff Brunson scored when Chris Lara was plunked by a pitch with the bases loaded, and Darian Burns hit an RBI single for a 2-0 advantage.
"I will give my guys credit; they grinded," Finnegan said. "I mean the first pitch of the game, Austin Stone takes a line drive off of his knee."
Stone remained in the game, and gutted out five tough innings, allowing two runs on five hits, and left with the lead.
"We turn it over to the bullpen and couldn't' do much," Finnegan said.
Before the pen got their hands on this game, Robbie Young's third-inning homer provided Stone with a 3-0 cushion. But Butler (13-5, 5-1) got back in the game in the fourth when Jackson Soule singled and scored on Alex Brough's extra base hit. Jack Macki followed with an RBI single, and the Grizzlies were within one, 3-2. However, Stone did damage control, getting Garrett Chalker to bounce into a force out to end the inning.
Garden City got a run back in the top of the fifth once Corbin Truslow crushed a 3-2 fastball out of the yard for his eighth homer of the season, and a 4-2 Broncbuster lead.
That's when the bullpen allowed the Grizzlies to get back in the game. Paxton Robinson, who has been rock solid in relief in his last couple of outings, allowed a solo blast to Alex Brough in the sixth.
That setup the dramatics in the final frame.
Clinging to a one-run lead in the seventh, the Broncbusters couldn't provide any insurance as Burns, Ty Barclay and ReJean Bourget went down in order. Meantime the Grizzlies got the spark they needed in the bottom half when Keone Givens drew a five-pitch walk with two outs. Nick Iossi then issued a free pass to Javier Pena before yielding a single to Connor Hurst to cut the deficit to one. After Hurst swiped second, Soule hit a slow, bouncing ball up the middle that scored Pena, giving the Grizzlies a dramatic one-run victory.
Iossi dropped to 1-2 this season, allowing two runs on two hits while walking two. Robinson pitched an inning of relief, giving up a solo jack.
Dallas Armstrong got the win out of the pen for the Grizzlies, threw two shutout innings.
The second game played out eerily similar to the first.
Truslow and Young mashed home runs, Garden City scored four runs in the third and four in the sixth, and had a 10-7 edge.
But as much as the bullpen struggled in closing game one, it was defensive miscues that cost Garden City in game two.
The Broncbusters committed a season-high eight errors, allowing Butler to crawl back in the game.
"You're not going to win a game when you give up 15 free bases," Finnegan said. "If you do, you're extremely lucky."
Ty Lightly's RBI single in the ninth gave Garden City an 11-8 advantage in the top of the ninth. But Parker Base's two-run homer in the bottom half forced extras, where in the 10th, Iossi's attempt to throw out Pena at second, skipped away, and rolled all the way to the bullpen, allowing the winning run to score all the way from first.
"We just played poorly," Finnegan said. "When you play poorly, you don't deserve to win."
Jacob Garza started the game for Garden City and got a no decision, allowing three runs on five hits in three innings. Eric Heiman relieved him in the fourth, giving up five runs before Scott Waterman tossed an inning of scoreless relief.
Ryan Miller got the win for Butler, giving up a one run on two hits in two innings.
Next up: Garden City vs. Butler-Saturday, March 10-12:45 p.m. pregame; 1 p.m. first pitch on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app