By Mike Pilosof
Arkansas City, KS-Chris Finnegan's team knew they missed an opportunity on Friday to seize control of the series.
With their season on the line Saturday, the Broncbusters proved early on they could hang with the ninth-ranked team in the country. But in the end, the Tigers offense got rolling, and Garden City had no answer.
Alex Peterson drove in three runs, four Tigers collected multi-hit games, and Cowley advanced to bracket play with a 10-3 victory over the Broncbusters in the opening round of the Region VI Tournament at Tigers Field.
"We kept it close, and then we gave up a four spot," Garden City Coach Chris Finnegan said. "We were a guy short, and that's how it's been all year."
Eric Heiman, who had been lights out his last two starts, found himself in trouble early in game two.
The first four Tigers reached in the bottom of the first: Devin Beard and Kea'von Edwards hit back-to-back singles, Alex Peterson smashed a two-run double, and Grady Davenport reached on an error by Chris Lara at third. Dalton Dinkel pushed another run across when he bounced into a double play, and Cowley had a 4-0 advantage.
"We missed out on Wichita two years in row," Finnegan said. "That's not acceptable with our program. But it gives us the opportunity to go back to work."
The Broncbusters finally broke through in the top of the second. Shortstop Kenny Rolon's error allowed Lara and ReJean Bourget to score.
"We kept playing, and give out guys credit all year; they always kept fighting," Finnegan said.
In the Cowley third, reliever Nick Iossi struck out Edwards and Peterson to start the inning. But he walked Davenport before surrendering a run-scoring double to Dinkel that pushed the Tigers lead to 4-2.
"We kept clawing back," Finnegan said. "But when you're constantly a man short, it's tough."
But as it has all season, one inning made the difference.
Iossi allowed a triple to Dinkle to lead off the sixth. That's when Finnegan replaced him with Jacob Douglas, who, after inducing a fly out for the first out, walked Cross Factor, and yielded a double to Mason Stites. After walking the bases loaded, Beard ripped a breaking ball for a two-run single. Edwards added an RBI base hit, and Peterson a sac fly, capping off a four-run frame that put Cowley on top 8-3.
"We just didn't have the bullets, and the guys in the middle of the order," Finnegan added. "The bottom of the order struggled, but it is what it is."
The Tigers put the game away in the seventh when Cross Factor laced an RBI triple, which was followed by Stites' sac fly that made it a seven-run game.
Ryan Westerhoff picked up the win for Cowley, allowing three runs on three hits in five innings. He walked three and struck out five.