By Mike Pilosof
Liberal, KS-It was the offensive day Chris Finnegan was searching for. And he even got a gem from freshman Eric Heiman in game three.
Corbin Truslow mashed three home runs, Heiman tossed his third-complete game of the year, and Garden City split their final two games with Seward County, winning the first 15-1 in a five-inning run rule before losing the last one 10-8.
"It's been a long road for us all year," Finnegan said afterwards. "We said all along that we have holes, and teams are starting to see those."
If there were any holes in Garden City's game-one performance, it was hard to find them.
Truslow powered a two-out, solo shot off of starter Ryan Thomas in the first, Lightley clubbed a two-run bomb two batters later, and the Broncbusters had a 3-0 edge. They eventually chased the Saints' starter in the second, adding four more on Robbie Young's RBI single and Tyrus Barclay's two-run double.
"We competed in both games," Finnegan said. "And it's a little easier to pitch when your team scores that many runs."
Heiman protected the lead, working in and out of trouble a couple of times. The Saints had two on with one out in both the first and fourth innings. But the freshman never allowed a sustained rally. In the first, he gave up a lead-off double to Brendan Madsen and a walk to Spencer Sackett. However, he got out of it when Barclay gunned down Madsen at third before Heiman struck out Cayde Ward and got Dylan Paul to pop out. In the fourth, Seward County had runners at first and second with one down before he fanned Benny Ayala and Ben Tsui to end the threat.
While Heiman was dealing, the offense kept adding. Garden City (25-24, 11-17) sent 11 men to the plate in the fifth and scored eight runs off of reliever Jordan Pepper. The highlight of the inning was produced by Clint Allen, who hit a three-run homer over the left-field wall.
"Eric was really good today," Finnegan said. "He had command of his pitches and was hitting his spots."
His only blemish came in the fifth when Jose Caraballo touched him up with solo jack to left. Other than that, Heiman was solid, scattering four hits in five innings. He struck out four while throwing only 84 pitches. Allen, Young, Truslow and Barclay combined to go 9-for-15 at the plate with nine RBI.
Thomas lasted only 1 2/3 innings for Seward County (24-26, 11-17), giving up six earned runs on seven hits. Pepper tossed 3 1/3 innings of relief, surrendering another eight, while Madsen, who extended his hitting streak to 10 games, finished 2-for-3 at the dish.
And like they did in the opener, Garden City got a jump start in the finale.
On the first pitch on the game, Allen tattooed a Brayden Conner fastball over the wall in left. A couple of batters later, Lightley reached on an error by Caraballo at short allowing a run to score before adding another on Seward County's second miscue of the frame.
The Saints got a run back in their half of the first on Sackett's sacrifice fly. But even after starter Kendrick Catron worked into some early trouble, it appeared this was Garden City's day. Look no further than the second inning for proof of that.
Young hammered a no-doubt about it, three-run blast to right, and Truslow followed with a solo shot to the same spot, spotting the Broncbusters a 7-1 advantage.
"We haven't been able to finish games, I've been saying it all year," Finnegan explained. "That's what happened again."
The Saints comeback started rather innocuously in the third. Madsen flew out to right to start the inning. But then Catron lost his command, walking Cole Bergdall before giving up a two-run homer to Ward. Sackett singled, Joseph Kuhn, who hit two homers in game two, reached on an infield single, and Caraballo stroked an RBI base hit. Ayala added an RBI ground out, and Cody Coontz tied the game with a two-run blast to left. Just like that, the lead was gone, and Catron's day was finished.
"We didn't pitch it very well again in game four," Finnegan said. "A lot of Kendrick's stuff was up in the zone."
The Saints took their first lead of the day in the fourth. With two outs, Russell Cruz dropped a fly ball in right, which allowed Ward to go to third. The next batter, Sackett, laced a single to centerfield, giving Seward County an 8-7 edge.
"Jacob elevated a couple of pitches, and that was that," Finnegan said. "But that inning continues because of a mistake."
The Broncbusters seemed to right the ship in the seventh when Barclay ripped a run-scoring single up the middle off of Dylan Paul. But the celebration was short lived. The Saints touched up Ryder Yakel in their half, getting an RBI single from Cruz Shope and a run-scoring double by Madsen.
Garden City got the tying run to the plate in the final two innings but never scored.
Tanner King picked up his second win of the series in relief, going 1 2/3 innings, allowing just two hits. Cole Evans, who won game two, picked up his second save, and Ward was 3-for-4 at the plate.
Yakel dropped to 1-3 on the bump, surrendering two runs on three hits in one inning. Allen, Truslow and Barclay all collected three hits.
Next up: Garden City at Colby-Thursday, April 26-12:45 p.m. pregame; 1 p.m. first pitch on 99.9 FM; westernkansansews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app