By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-At some point, Chris Finnegan believes the breaks will start going his team's way.
But on Thursday, it was just the opposite, and Hutchinson seized control of the four-game series.
Wyatt Divis smashed two home runs, Mike Brown pitched a complete-game shutout, and the defending Jayhawk West champions beat Garden City 5-0 and 9-8.
"In the first game, we failed to make any adjustments," Finnegan said. "Give Brown a lot of credit."
Brown wasn't overpowering by any stretch, but he commanded two pitches: his fastball and changeup, something that had the Garden City bats off balance all day.
"He (Brown) kept throwing changeup after changeup," Finnegan said. "And we never adjusted to it."
Brown got plenty of help from his offense. In the first, Dylan Nedved knocked an extra base hit off of Broncbuster ace Austin Stone, and Morgensen scorched a two-out, RBI double to put the Blue Dragons up 1-0.
Two innings later, Zion Bowlin, who moonlighted as a running back for Lawrence Free State his senior year, belted a solo shot to right-center. Logan Sartori and Dylan Nedved followed with a pair of doubles, and Hutchinson had a 3-0 advantage.
"Austin threw a complete game for us, and even though he struggled a bit, he minimized what could have been a few big innings," Finnegan said.
Meantime Brown continued to sizzle. He retired the first six batters he faced until Tyrus Barclay doubled to lead off the third.
"These guys have to ask themselves what kind of player they want to be," Finnegan said.
Garden City (19-20, 5-13) did have their chances against Brown. In the third, the Broncbusters had second and third with two outs. But Alex Eskanezai struck out swinging. An inning later, with Corbin Truslow at first and one out, Chris Lara bounced into a 4-6-3 double play.
"I was really proud of how our guys got hits with two outs the other day," Finnegan said. "We didn't do that when we needed to today."
Hutchinson (20-15, 12-10) added to their lead in the fifth when Divis crushed Stone's fastball over the wall in left-center. Then in the sixth, Sartori hit a sacrifice fly to make it 5-0.
"We just couldn't get anything going in that first game," Finnegan said.
Brown retired the final 10 batters he faced. He allowed just two hits while striking out five in his first complete game of the year. The top four hitters in the order (Sartori, Nedved, Divis and Morgensen) combined to go 5-for14 at the plate with four RBI for Hutchinson, who won their sixth straight game vs. Garden City.
Austin Stone dropped to 4-3, surrendering five runs on 10 hits in seven innings for Garden City, who has lost five straight conference games. He struck out seven, but gave up two home runs and threw 119 pitches.
Things did not get much better early in game two.
Following Nedved's one-out single in the first off of Paxton Robinson, who was making his first start of the season, Divis devoured an 0-1 breaking ball, which landed over the fence in centerfield. Hutchinson added to their cushion in the second on Bowlin's two-out RBI single.
"I give a lot of credit to our guys the way they responded after falling down again in the second game," Finnegan said.
The Broncbusters finally got going in the bottom of the second. Ty Lightley singled to center, Eskanezai walked and Griffin Brunson was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Clint Allen followed with an RBI groundout, and Garden City was down 3-1. They added another run in the third thanks to Darien Burns, who snapped out of an 0-for-10 funk with a two-out, run-scoring single to left-center that cut the Hutchinson lead to 3-2.
After the Blue Dragons added what appeared to be an insurance run in the fourth, the Broncbuster bats came alive in the fifth.
Young, whose eight-game hitting streak was snapped with his 0-for-3 showing in the opener, led off the frame with a double. Barclay then singled him home, and Truslow blasted a two-run shot that landed onto Campus Avenue to give Garden City their first lead of the day, 5-4. The Broncbusters tacked on two more runs when Lightley scored on a passed ball and ReJean Bourget on a wild pitch. In the sixth, Garden City pushed their advantage to 8-4 when reliever Dayden Lane issued a bases-loaded walk to Burns. But with a chance to do further damage with the sacks full, Zach Philbin got Lightley to roll into a 4-6 inning-ending twin killing.
"There were a couple of times we could have extended innings but couldn't avoid the double play," Finnegan said. "That's unfortunate."
Garden City could have used the added separation because in the seventh, after Wolverton roped a triple to center, Sartori got him home with a sac fly. Then Nedved hit a solo home run, slicing the Broncbusters lead in half.
In the Hutchinson eighth, Broncbuster reliever Jacob Douglas was cruising, striking out Ryan Moritz and getting Zach Baxley to line out to left. But he fell behind the next batter he faced, Brock Schaffer, who smoked his 2-1 pitch out of the yard in right-center, making it a one-run game.
"When he (Schaffer) hit that home run, you could feel things turning," Finnegan said.
Still, the Broncbusters had the lead. That was until the top of the ninth, when Finnegan replaced Nick Iossi, who struggled with command in the eighth, with Scott Waterman. But the freshman did not fare any better. Satori reached on an infield single, and Nedved dropped down a perfect drag bunt, beating out Waterman's underhand toss to first. That's when Divis changed everything, smacking an RBI single to left-center that tied the game. After walking Morgensen, Finnegan went back to the bullpen, calling on Ryder Yakel.
"I just told him you've got a mess here, figure a way to get out of it," Finnegan said.
Yakel followed his coach's instructions. He struck out Julian Rip; then got Baxley to fly out to shallow right. But after Burns made the catch, his throw was too high for Barclay at home plate, allowing Nedved to score the go-ahead run.
"I thought Ryder pitched really well," Finnegan said. "That's a tough situation for anyone to be in."
Yakel retired all three batters he faced, getting Schaffer to fly out to right to end the inning.
Trailing by one in the bottom of the ninth, Garden City got the tying run on when Lightley drew an eight-pitch walk. But they never pushed him across, and Bourget and Brunson struck out swinging against Nedved to close the game.
"We have to figure out a way to close games," Finnegan said. "That's been our problem all year. It's the same song and dance."
Nedved, who led the conference in saves as a freshman, picked up the win, tossing a scoreless ninth. He also added three hits, a homer and three RBI for Hutchinson. Starter Mason Palmier gave up five runs on six hits in four innings.
Waterman took the loss for Garden City, yielding two runs on three hits. He did not record an out. Robinson scattered three runs on five hits in three innings, while Douglas allowed two long balls in 4 2/3 innings. Young tied a season-high with three hits, and Truslow and Burns each knocked in two.
Next up: Garden City at Hutchinson-Saturday, April 7-12:45 p.m. pregame; 1 p.m. first pitch on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app