By Mike Pilosof
Great Bend, KS-Mother nature can definitely be cruel sometimes.
50 mph winds wreaked havoc early in game three as Garden City committed a season-high four errors, Jake Skala pitched a complete game for Barton, and the Cougars downed the Broncbusters 3-1 at Lawson-Biggs Field.
"We gave up way too many free bases," Head Coach Chris Finnegan said.
The first of those mistakes came in the top of the first after Connery O'Donnell struck out the first two Cougar hitters. With a chance to get out of the frame, shortstop Dyan Rodriguez threw wide of the target at first, allowing Nolan Riley to reach. Noah Geekie was then hit by a pitch, and Charlie Peyla singled to center, putting Barton up 1-0.
"We extended innings," Finnegan said. "When you give free bases, that's what happens."
In the second, Rodriguez was charged with another throwing error that allowed leadoff man Trenton Ferguson to get on. Two batters later, Brett Erickson drove him in with an RBI groundout, stretching the lead to 2-0.
But while errors may have cost Garden City early in the game, missed opportunities hurt them more.
In both the first and second innings, the Broncbusters had a runner at third with two outs. But in both instances, Sean Klein grounded out to second, and Rodriguez struck out swinging.
"We have to score in those situations," Finnegan said. "But as I said, that's just getting out there and playing. We need to get back to being out there consistently."
Garden City managed to break through in the fifth. Chris Lara reached on an error, then moved to third on back-to-back sacrifice bunts by Grant Lathrop and Rodriguez. With two outs, Jake Barber singled him home, cutting the Cougars' lead in half, 2-1.
"We will be okay," Finnegan said. "These younger guys are still learning, and we haven't played a ton of baseball. But the weather will get better."
In the sixth, the Broncbusters got the tying run on when Sean Klein doubled to right-center. But as the freshman tried to leg out a triple, Casey Wulfkuhle threw a laser to third to get him out. Coincidentally, the next batter, Dakota Finley, hit a single, that in retrospect, would have tied the game. Instead, Colin Stone lined out to second to end the inning.
Barton added an insurance run in the seventh on Peyla's sacrifice fly, and Skala got the Broncbusters in order in the bottom half to close it out.
Skala improved to 2-2, allowing just one earned run on five hits in seven innings for Barton, who became the first team to sweep a series between these two schools since 2013.
Connery O'Donnell pitched brilliantly in the loss for Garden City, giving up just one run on three hits in six innings.