By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-Eventually, all good players force their coach's hands. Eric Heiman is making a strong case to be Chris Finnegan's No. 1 guy.
The freshman was sensational on Saturday, striking out eight in six innings, the Broncbusters mashed a season-best six homers in game two, and Garden City split their final two games with Colby, winning game three, 4-2 and losing the finale, 13-11. The Broncbusters finished the regular season as the No. 8 seed in the Jayhawk West and open the Region VI Tournament at Cowley on Friday.
Is Heiman pushing his way into a game 1 start this week?
"I don't know what we are going to do yet," Finnegan said. "We've been kicking around like three different ideas. So we will see."
Heiman made it back-to-back solid outings. After allowing a run in the first in game three, the freshman settled down, striking out Andy Leader in the second before getting Sam Poliquin to bounce into a 3-6-1 double play. He surrendered just one hit the next two innings before Josh Diggins singled in the fifth. In the following stanza, Heiman did damage control. He yielded a two-out double to catcher Jason Evans only to come right back and strike out Leader.
Meantime, the Broncbuster offense got going in the bottom of the first when Corbin Truslow doubled home Clint Allen, and Robbie Young plated Tyrus Barclay on a run-scoring single. In the fifth, Garden City extended their cushion behind Young's extra base hit to the gap and Barclay's sacrifice fly that made it 4-1.
The only anxiety Garden City felt late was when Ryder Yakel, who replaced Heiman in the seventh, allowed the first two runners to reach base. Drake Kirkwood then produced a run on a sac fly, and the Trojans were down 4-2. But Yakel ended any Colby hope when he got Josh Diggins and Jacob Bouzide to fly out to end the game.
Heiman notched his fifth win of the season, throwing just 89 pitches to get there. Barclay and Young each collected two hits.
Bryce Fraser took the loss for Colby, giving up four runs on eight hits in six innings. Diggins went 2-for-4 at the plate, and Matt Coutney and Kirkwood drove in the two Trojan runs.
In the second game, the Broncbuster bats, led by ReJean Bourget, resuscitated an offense that seemed out of sync early.
Colby jumped all over starter Kendrick Catron in the first. Diggins and Ryle Humrighouse reached base, and Enok Perez pulverized a 1-2 breaking ball and hit it out to left, spotting the Trojans a 3-0 edge. After Garden City got on the board in the bottom of the second on Bourget's RBI double to left, Colby went back on the offensive.
Cameron Tilly chased Catron in the third with a two-run double. They added one more in the inning and two more in the fourth to make it 8-1.
"Our guys could have easily quit at that point," Finnegan said. "But they didn't. And I'm very proud of them for how they fought back."
Ty Lightley devoured a 2-0 pitch off of Peyton Ingalls in the fourth, sending it over the wall in left-center for a solo home run. In the fifth, Truslow went yard, smacking a solo job before Bourget touched them all in the sixth to cut the Trojans lead to 8-4.
"We just kept fighting," Finnegan said. "At that point, that's really all you can ask of your guys."
In the seventh, the Broncbusters exploded. Young and Bourget smashed three-run homers, fueling a six-run inning that had Garden City within one. The following frame, Truslow's line-drive shot over the fence in left tied the game.
"When you do all of that work to come back, you need to finish," Finnegan said. "We have had a tough time doing that all year long."
While the comeback was in full force, Nick Iossi had his best outing in a month. The sophomore was brilliant in 2 1/3 scoreless innings, fanning four, and not allowing a hit.
"That's the Nick Iossi we saw earlier in the season," Finnegan said. "He has his confidence back."
Going to the ninth, Finnegan replaced Iossi with Yakel, who gave up a single to Leader. After Christian Roduner bunted the runner into scoring position, Evans flew out to left for the second out of the inning. That's when things took a turn for the worse.
Kirkwood rolled a routine groundball to the sure-handed Lightley at short. But after fielding it, the sophomore sent an errant throw to first that allowed the go-ahead run to score. Diggins followed with an RBI single, and the Broncbusters were down 13-11.
"More free bases," Finnegan said. "We were right there and about to get out of the inning. But that's how it's been all season."
Yakel took the loss for Garden City, giving up two runs in the ninth. Catron started the game and went 2 1/3 innings, giving up six runs on five hits. Bourget drove in a season-high five runs and recorded his first multi-homer game of his career.
Ryan Morgan picked up the win for Colby, allowing one run in one inning. Hofmann picked up the save, and Tilly homered for the fifth consecutive game.
Next up: Garden City at Cowley-best 2 out of 3 series beginning on Friday, time to be announced on 99.9 FM; westernkansasenws.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app