By Mike Pilosof
Hutchinson, KS-No matter what happens the rest of this series, the eighth and ninth innings of Thursday's game two, will haunt Chris Finnegan.
Zach Baxley smashed the deciding two-run homer in the fourth, the Broncbusters bounced into back-to-back inning-ending double plays in the eight and ninth, and Hutchinson edged Garden City 3-1 at Hobart-Detter Field.
"Those last two innings were killer," Finnegan said. "There is no way around that."
Trailing by two runs, the table was set for another Broncbuster rally in the eighth, something that has been common place for this team in 2019. Blue Dragons' reliever Zach Firmature issued free passes to Jake Barber and Turner McDonald to begin the inning. Sean Klein followed with a sacrifice bunt, and Ryan Summers, who replaced Firmature, intentionally walked Corbin Truslow to load the bases.
"You have to score in that position," Finnegan said. "But that was the story of the game."
The comeback trail hit a major snag when Dakota Finley grounded into a 6-3, twin killing, a play that mesmerized most in attendance thanks to shortstop Dylan Nedved, who ranged to his left to snare the bouncing ball before stepping on the second-base bag and throwing a dart to Baxley at first to end the frame.
"That's baseball for you," Finnegan said. "We had so many chances to score runs in that second game, and we just didn't do it."
Their final opportunity came in the ninth, which started off well with Brenden Anderson's single to right. But after Colin Stone struck out on a nasty curveball from Summers, Chris Lara, who had a six-game hitting streak going into the finale on Thursday, rolled a ball to Logan Sartori, who flipped to Nedved covering second for the first out before the middle infielder delivered a slingshot to first to get Lara by two steps to end the game.
"You can get guys in scoring position against this team," Finnegan explained. "But they're good because they don't allow runs in critical situations."
It was a fatal blow to an afternoon in which the Broncbusters appeared a bit dazed after losing the opener in heartbreaking fashion. Still, Garden City scratched first in game two in the third. Jake Barber singled to leadoff the inning; then scored on Sean Klein's flyout that was aided by Jeremiah Ceasar's errant throw from center that put Garden City up 1-0.
But that was the only offense the Broncbusters could muster all afternoon as Hutchinson starter Jake Bunz was dominant, yielding just one unearned run on three hits in seven strong.
Baxley then delivered the crushing blow in the fourth. After Christopher Noble singled to leadoff the inning, Baxley hammered the first pitch he saw from Malachi Crone, parking it over the wall in left for a 3-1 advantage.
That's all the help Bunz needed.
The freshman set the Broncbusters down in order in the fifth; worked around a two-out infield single by Finley in the sixth to get Andersen to strike out, and tossed just seven pitches to record three outs in the seventh.
Crone suffered his first loss of the season, yielding three runs on six hits in five innings.
Meantime Bunz continued his strong stretch, tallying seven strike outs or more for the fifth time this season and four straight game.
Next up: Garden City vs. Hutchinson-Saturday, March 30-12:45 p.m. pregame; 1 p.m. first pitch on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app