By Mike Pilosof
Photo by Adam Shrimplin
Dodge City, KS-Chris Finnegan was very honest in the assessment of his team's play through the first few innings of game three.
"We were just awful," he said. "We didn't do anything right."
But the final three innings, now that was a totally different story.
Dyan Rodriguez knocked in three runs, the bullpen, consisting of Ryan Nason, Damian Acosta and Jacob Douglas held Dodge City at bay, and Garden City erased an eight-run deficit to beat the Conquistadors 11-10 Sunday afternoon at Cavalier Field.
"These guys just kept chipping away," Finnegan said. "But the way we started that game was really bad."
Starter Connery O'Donnell, who was solid in his start a week earlier in Great Bend, was a tick off from the start. He issued a one-out walk to Trey Vasquez in the first; then gave up a chopping single to Garrett McGowan that bounced over Dakota Finley's head at third. Spencer Marcus followed with an RBI groundout before Finley's throwing error allowed another run to score.
"Our starting pitching was not good at all," Finnegan said.
With the sacks full in the second, O'Donnell hung a breaking ball that Vasquez smashed to right-center for a bases-clearing double that put Dodge City up 5-0. After Garden City answered with a run on Rodriguez's RBI single in the bottom half, Dodge City struck again in the third. The first two men reached before Andrew Sumner replaced O'Donnell. But the side-arming righty did not fare much better, committing an error that allowed Blake Rast to reach; then surrendering a double to Logan Murany. After walking Drake Angeron on four pitches, Vasquez knocked in another run, and Spencer Marcus drew a bases-loaded walk. In the end, the Conquistadors plated four runs on two hits to make it 9-1.
"Hats off to our guys in the pen-especially Ryan Nason," Finnegan said. "They kept us in the game."
Nason allowed just one run over 2.2 innings. In the meantime, the offense finally got on track in the fifth, getting a run-scoring single from Rodriguez to make it 9-2. After the Conquistadors responded with a run in the top of the sixth, Garden City came storming back in the bottom half. Turner McDonald reached on a bunt single, Sean Klein doubled to right, and Finley singled home one. After Corbin Truslow moved the runners over, Chris Lara ripped an 0-2 pitch to left that plated Finley. Three batters later, Rodriguez struck again, this time mashing an RBI double to left. Jake Barber followed with a two-run single, McDonald added an RBI base hit, and incredibly, Garden City was only down 10-9. The rally ended when Klein lined out to end the inning.
"I don't know the final count, but I think we gave them like 16 free bases," Finnegan said. "You're not going to win a lot of games doing that."
The veteran coach went back to his pen in the seventh, calling on Douglas, who worked a 1-2-3 inning. That setup the dramatics in the Broncbusters' half.
Facing reliever Carlos Vizcaya, Finley singled on the first pitch that he saw. Truslow then walked, and, after Lara bounced into a fielder's choice, pinch-hitter Grant Lathrop drew a free pass to load the bases. That was the precursor for Colin Stone, who was plunked on the back, allowing the tying run to score. The next hitter Rodriguez didn't have to do much. Ahead 2-1, Vizcaya was called for a balk, allowing courtesy runner Braeden Nielsen to score the winning run from third.
"It's only happened one other time," said Finnegan, who was referring to winning a game on a walk-off balk. "It was about nine years ago. But I have to be honest, I didn't see it."
What Finnegan did see was an incredible rollercoaster ride over the final three innings, completing the biggest comeback of the season.
Douglas improved to 4-0, pitching an inning of scoreless relief, while Rodriguez finished 3-for-4 at the plate.
Vizcaya took the loss for the Conquistadors, allowing two runs on three hits in 2/3 of an inning.