By Mike Pilosof
Photo by Adam Shrimplin
Garden City, KS-One week earlier, Chris Finnegan made a decision to pull Malachi Crone in the eighth inning after a dominating start. The results were mixed as the Broncbusters coughed up the lead only to have Chris Lara put them back in front with a go-ahead single in the ninth.
On Thursday, Finnegan was left with the same decision. This time, he let Crone pitch the eighth, although the freshman never made it out of the inning.
Josh Cox recorded his second multi-hit game of the series, Bennett Scherer slammed the door with a six-out save, and Butler overcame a four-run deficit to beat Garden City 5-4 in game two at Williams Stadium.
"It was a different situation than last week," Finnegan said. "In the seventh inning, Malachi was keeping the ball down. Last week, his pitches were elevated, so I took him out."
Crone's work through seven innings was as masterful as it gets. He allowed just three hits through six, and surrendered only a sacrifice fly in the seventh that got Butler on the board.
Meantime, the Broncbusters found some offense. Brenden Andersen drove in a run with an RBI fielder's choice in the first, Turner McDonald smashed his first career home run in the second, and Chris Lara hit a sac fly in the third to put Garden City up 3-0. In the fifth, Lara struck again, this time pulverizing reliever Zach Nagel's pitch over the wall in left for his fourth long ball of the season and a 4-0 Broncbuster edge.
"Even though we scored, we missed a lot of chances too," Finnegan said. "We have to be able to score when we've got guys in position."
Garden City finished the day 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. They stranded eight men on base.
"I didn't think it was that bad, but it doesn't surprise me," Finnegan added.
Even though Crone gave up a run in the seventh, it never appeared that Butler had any momentum. That was until the eighth.
Colby Deaville began the frame by hitting a sharp grounder to Dakota Finley at third. But the freshman booted the ball into left. Jack Maki drew a walk, and Patrick Bethea laid down a bunt that Crone misplayed, loading the bases with nobody out. Finnegan then replaced Crone with Jacob Douglas, who immediately served up a two-run double to Cox. Javier Pena followed with an RBI single to tie the game, and two batters later, Colby Standard rolled a ball into left to put the Grizzlies on top 5-4.
"Just like that, the lead was gone," Finnegan said. "We kick a ball at third; we misplay a bunt, and that was that."
Garden City finally got out of the inning when Andrew Sumner struck out Austin Portner, and Luis Padilla fanned Tanyon Schafer. But the damage was done: four runs on three hits and two costly errors in one-half inning.
"We beat ourselves in that eighth inning," Finnegan said. "But I thought Andrew and Luis did a really nice job coming in."
That's when Butler Head Coach BJ McVay turned to arguably the best closer in the conference to close it out.
Scherer recorded two punchouts in the bottom of the eighth and one more in the ninth, retiring all six batters he faced for his league-leading 11th save of the season.
Nagel picked up the win for Butler, allowing one run on one hit in four innings of relief. Starter Jayton Haggard surrendered two runs on two hits in three innings.
Jacob Douglas dropped his fourth game of the season for Garden City, giving up the go-ahead run in the eighth. Crone finished the day with five punchouts in seven innings. He allowed just two earned runs on five hits.
Next up: Garden City at Butler, Saturday, May 4-12:45 p.m. pregame; 1 p.m. first pitch on 99.9 FM; westerankansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app