By Mike Pilosof
Liberal, KS-Jacob Douglas has been the stabilizing force for the Broncbuster bullpen all season long.
But there have been some exceptions, and unfortunately, Thursday's series opener against Seward County was one of them.
The sophomore reliever served up a three-run, go-ahead homer to Benny Ayala in the sixth as the Saints took game one from Garden City 7-6 at Brent Gould Field.
"We should have walked out of here with two wins," Broncbusters Coach Chris Finnegan said. "I keep saying it, but we have to learn to finish games."
But the bottom of the first epitomized the Broncbusters day. Finley booted a ball at third, and Brenden Andersen dropped another in right; both miscues led to the Saints scoring three runs to take a 3-2 advantage.
"We've got to get something worked out on the left side of the infield," Finnegan said.
Garden City tied a season high with five errors, yet immediately went back on top in the second thanks to Kline, whose two-run single pushed Garden City ahead 4-3. But it didn't last, and another error by Finley in the home half allowed Cruz Shope to score from third.
"We hurt ourselves so many times in this game," Finnegan said. "More free bases, and we keep giving teams runs."
With the game tied, Garden City loaded the bases with nobody out in the fourth against Tanner King. But after Seward County skipper Mike Davidson called time to talk to his right hander, the sophomore settled down, getting Klein to pop out to first before striking out Finley and Andersen.
"I told the guys that 95 percent of the time, after a meeting, he (King) was going to throw a first-pitch slider," Finnegan explained. "He threw one to Sean, who gut underneath it. Then the other two swung at the same pitch and missed."
Fortunately for the Broncbusters, all was not lost after leaving the sacks full. Once Heiman recorded three punchouts in the Saints' fourth, Garden City went on the attack in the fifth. Colin Stone doubled to center; took third on a passed ball and scored when reliever Braeden Gould was called for a balk. A couple of batters later, Jake Barber ripped a two-out single, and Turner McDonald blasted an RBI double to give the Broncbusters a two-run cushion.
Unfortunately, the lasting memory from this game is what happened in the Seward County sixth.
Douglas got the first two Saints out before yielding a double to AJ Folds. Knowing Cayde Ward's power, the sophomore nibbled around the corners without giving in to the reigning All-Conference player. So after walking Ward, Ayala came to the plate as the go-ahead run.
"He (Douglas) just hung a pitch," Finnegan said.
That pitch: a 1-2 curveball that sat over the heart of the plate. And after fouling off the previous two, Ayala didn't miss this one, smoking a three-run bomb over the wall in left to put Seward County in front 7-6.
Garden City went quietly and in order in the seventh.
"When you put yourself in a position to win, you have to finish," Finnegan said. "I thought Eric (Heiman) struggled in the first inning before settling down. But the game came down to errors and really one pitch."
Douglas suffered his second loss of the season, giving up three runs on two hits in one inning of work.
Gould notched the win for Seward County, allowing two runs on four hits in three innings of relief. King was chased after four innings, giving up three earned runs on seven hits.