Garden City, KS-The wind was howling out to left field during Sunday's doubleheader between Garden City and Cloud County, but until the second game it was difficult to tell it was a hitters day.
Cloud County limited Garden City to just three hits in the first game and won 5-2. Garden City took the second game 15-8 thanks to a Grand Slam in the eighth inning from shortstop Ty Lightley that nicked the foul pole in left for his first collegiate home run.
Ryder Yakel (3-1) made the start for Garden City (17-10,5-3) in game one and retired the first six batters he faced until allowing Kolton Meyer's leadoff homer to left in the third, which gave Cloud County (10-13, 1-7) a 1-0 lead. For Meyer it was his team leading fifth homer of the season.
Ryan Krolikowski added a two-out RBI single to right center in the fourth giving Cloud a 2-0 lead.
Garden City cut the Cloud County lead in half, scoring an unearned run in the fourth when Tuckler Catlett's wild throw to first trying to turn a 4-6-3 double play allowed Alex Nielsen to score.
Nielsen had a chance to give the Broncbusters their first lead of the afternoon in the fifth when he lined reliever Krolikowski's pitch to right field. But it was caught by Jacob Grady, and Garden City to left the bases loaded.
One inning later, Tauren Langley made the Broncbusters pay by homering to left over the scoreboard off Garden City reliever Mitchell Savine. That was enough breathing room to give Cloud County their first conference win and the second victory over Garden in 11 games. Both teams added a run in their final at bats to give Cloud County a 5-2 edge.
The win meant the Thunderbirds eclipse their total number of wins from last year when they finished 9-44. First year head coach and former Garden City Community College assistant Eric Gilliland already had his team reach double figures in wins for the year not even halfway through the following season.
Game two saw much more fire power, and it started when Garden City had a three-homer third inning off Thunderbirds starter Patrick Rosborough. Jesse Gonzales scorched his second homer of the weekend and third of the year to right center tying up the game 1-1. Connor Reynolds added a two-run blast to center that gave Garden City their first lead at 3-1. The homer was his first since Indian Hills on February 26 and gave him 10 for the season matching what he did all of last year. Nielsen then went back-to-back on a solo shot to give Garden City a 4-1 lead.
"That inning was good to see," Head Coach Chris Finnegan said. "We struggled game one offensively and realistically we struggled today offensively."
Lefty Kendrick Catron pitched well, but was dented for a three-run homer by Langley in the sixth inning to make it 5-4 Garden City. For Langley it was his second homer of the day and fifth of the season.
Second baseman Alex Eskridge would then get into the act for the Broncbusters. Saturday he had a two-run double to help the Broncbusters offensive attack. On Sunday, he would add another two-run double in the sixth off Thunderbirds reliever John Stiger to make it 7-4 for Garden City. One inning later he pasted a two-run single to center as part of a three-run inning to give Garden City a 10-6 lead.
"He (Eskridge) played to his strengths, he didn't try to do too much," Finnegan said. "He fouled some pitches off with two strikes and hit a mistake. Those were huge."
That set the stage for Lightley's Grand Slam off Cloud County reliever Koby Spicer, the second homer given up by the righty over the weekend. The drive off the base of the pole in left gave Garden City a 15-8 lead and wrapped up a four-homer second game for the Broncbusters.
Catron evened his record at 2-2 giving up four runs, three earned and three hits while striking out six and walking just one. The loss went to Rosborough who served up the four runs all on homers and three hits in three innings. His record dropped to 1-3.
Garden City is back on the road next week when they visit Butler. The Grizzlies are off to a 2-6 start in conference after losing three of four this weekend at first place Dodge City.