By Mike Pilosof
Great Bend, KS-Chalk this one up to missed opportunities.
Zach Curry kept Garden City off balance all day, striking out eight, Charlie Peyla knocked in three runs, and Barton beat the Broncbusters in their series opener 9-5 Friday afternoon at Lawson-Biggs Field.
"We didn't capitalize on scoring chances," Head Coach Chris Finnegan said. "We were just a click off all day, which is something that I expected."
The game was not lost in the first, but the tone was definitely set. The first three Broncbusters, Jake Barber, Sean Klein, and Corbin Truslow reached based against the Cougars' ace. But Garden City couldn't finish the job. Curry bounced back to strike out Brenden Anderson, Dakota Finley, and Alec Eskenazi, all in succession, to end the threat.
"I mean you have to score in that situation against that guy," Finnegan said. "Their staff is really good, and we had a chance."
While Curry was humming along, Garden City starter Eric Heiman got off to a rocky start. After getting Casey Wulfkhule to bounce ounce to first, the sophomore hurler gave up six straight hits, including Trenton Ferguson's two-run triple that put Barton up 5-0. Noah Rheinheimer added an RBI groundout, and the Cougars had a six-run cushion.
"We get the bases loaded and don't score," Finnegan explained. "They did, and scored six runs. Eric was up in the zone for most of the game."
Meantime Curry retired eight straight batters, not allowing a hit until Eskenazi doubled to left in the fourth.
In the bottom of the frame, Barton (9-3, 1-0) got a two-out, run-scoring double off the bat of Noah Geekie. An inning later, after the Broncbusters sliced the deficit to 7-3 on run-scoring doubles by Klein and Truslow, Tyler Bandiera took reliever Jordan Yates over the wall in left, putting the Cougars up 8-3.
"We just made a few costly mistakes," Finnegan said. "I don't think we played poorly. It just comes down to not being on the field in three weeks."
Peyla's RBI double in the sixth stretched Barton's lead to 9-3.
Then, after Curry was pulled in the seventh for Clay Wesbrooks, Garden City crawled back into the game. Klein singled, Truslow walked, and Anderson mashed a base hit to left to load the bases. Finley followed with a two-run double, and Garden City was down 9-5. But their luck quickly changed when closer Tanner Howe entered the contest. The sophomore got Eskenazi to pop out, and after hitting Colin Stone on the back, induced a force out to end the game.
Heiman dropped to 2-1 on the season, allowing seven runs on 11 hits in four innings. He threw 54 pitches through the first two frames.
Curry improved to 2-0, and the middle of the Cougars' order (Nolan Riley, Geekie, Peyla and Bandiera) combined to go 9-for-16 with six RBI.