By Mike Pilosof
Concordia, KS-Thanks to a couple of tweaks, Eric Heiman is looking more and more like the No. 1 guy Chris Finnegan expected to see when the season first started. Thursday was further proof of that.
The sophomore tossed six innings of shutout ball, Chris Lara drove in two runs, and Garden City downed Cloud County 6-0 at Lee Doyen Field.
"Eric is just getting more and more comfortable," Finnegan said. "We have tried some different things with him. At first, he wanted to do too much. Now, we've taken some stuff off of his plate."
Heiman was in a zone right from the start. He worked a 1-2-3 first; then maneuvered around an error and hit batsmen in the second to strike out Griffin Larsen to end the inning. In the third, the sophomore doused another Cloud County threat when he erased runners at first and third by striking out Grant Schmidt.
"He (Heiman) got himself in a little bit of trouble, but he got himself out of it," Finnegan explained. "He pitched well."
While Heiman kept the Thunderbird bats quiet, the offense went to work. In the top of the first, Jake Barber singled; stole second and took third on an error. Then Sean Klein ripped an RBI double before the Broncbusters scored another run on a double steal to make it 2-0.
"We definitely had to grind through some things in that first game," Finnegan said.
Garden City gave Heiman all the cushion he needed in the fourth. Brenden Andersen laced a leadoff single to left-center, and Lara smashed a two-run double to the gap. Dyan Rodriguez and Corbin Truslow added RBI singles, and the Broncbusters had a commanding 6-0 advantage.
And with Finnegan's No. 1 on the bump, that was more than enough.
Heiman surrendered a pinch-hit, two-out single to Kyler Charchun in the fifth and a walk to Davis Pratt. But like he did all day, Heiman fought back to strike out Jace Armstrong. He did similar work in the sixth, getting out of a two-on, one-out jam by fanning Clayton Loranger and getting Kade Wallace to fly out.
"In the end, we did enough on both ends to win," Finnegan said. "But it's only one game. We have to string a few of these together. That's been a challenge."
Finnegan pulled Heiman after the sixth and inserted Paxton Robinson. And despite being a bit erratic, the sophomore reliever wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam by inducing a 4-6-3 game-ending double play.
Heiman fanned eight, bringing his strikeout total over the last three games to 26. He improved to 3-3.
Austin Seidel took the loss for Cloud County, giving up six runs on eight hits in four innings.