El Dorado, KS-The Garden City Community College Baseball team used the power of the long ball and pitching that would have made Harry Houdini proud in sweeping two games at Butler's McDonald Field on Saturday 6-2 and 8-4. Garden City improved to 19-10 overall this season and 7-3 in the Jayhawk West, tied with Hutchinson for second and one game behind Dodge City for the division lead at 8-2.
Sunday in the finale against Cloud County, the Broncbusters used the power of a three homer inning in the third to spark their offense in a 15-8 rout. The same thing happened Saturday at Butler with Alex Nielsen, Billy Clark and Ty Barclay all going deep on solo shots. Clark's blast went off the scoreboard in right field and during that stretch off Grizzlies left-handed starter Cody Bush, Clark and Barclay went back to back. That inning coupled with three unearned runs scored by Garden City in the second gave the Broncbusters a 6-0 lead.
"There were some elevated pitches and we took advantage of it," Garden City Coach Chris Finnegan said. "We were very, very lucky, we had some elevated pitches that I don't know how they didn't get out today."
In that inning, after Javis Larson dropped a fly ball short of the track in right that put Billy Clark at second base, Jesse Gonzales had an RBI single to right center, Ty Lightley a RBI groundout and Alex Eskridge a RBI double to cap off the scoring.
Connor Burns (4-1) was in control for Garden City and fell just short of a complete-game shutout. During a stretch from getting the final out of the first to the first out of the fifth, he retired 11 straight Butler batters. Tanner White broke the string with a single in the fifth.
Burns struck out 12 batters, which was a career best. He had two double-digit strikeout games last season. His previous high was 11 punch outs in a 14-6 win over Barton on April 2 last season.
The shutout ended with two outs in the final inning when Blake Blessie and Tanner Hearon both singled ahead of second baseman's Mason Goade's two-run double. Burns ended the threat for his fourth complete game and third straight win when he struck out center fielder Garrett Chalker to end the game.
Game two began well for Garden City when Clint Allen went deep to left for his second homer of the year coming off Butler's game-two starter Drake Norton as the Broncbusters took a 2-0 lead.
Garden City added two more the following inning when Lightley doubled in Barclay and then Eskridge hit what appeared to be a homer to left which bounded back off the top of the wall and back into the field of play. Everyone froze for a moment before the umpires indicated play on and Eskridge instead legged out an RBI triple. After Finnegan logged a brief protest, the umpires conferred and kept with the original call as the Broncbusters took a 4-0 lead.
Unlike the first game, Butler had their chances to overtake Garden City. The Grizzlies, (10-15, 2-8) a wounded team having lost 7 of their last 8 entering play Saturday, left the bases loaded in the second off Garden City starting pitcher Noah Freeman and would leave the bases loaded in the sixth when, with nobody out and down 6-2, Broncbuster reliever Mitchell Savine struck out Blessie, Hearon and Goade to end the threat and hold Butler to just one run.
In the seventh off Broncbuster reliever Quinton Bonnell, Garrett Chalker led off with a triple to deep center. The next batter Javis Larson singled him in to make it 6-3 Garden. After catcher Caleb Cox flied out to left field, Connor Hurst singled Larson to third and then he was brought in by first baseman Jackson Soule's RBI single making it 6-4 Broncbusters.
Nick Ulmer would stop the bleeding with the tying runners on when he induced Tanner White's chopper up the middle to turn into a 6-3 double play with Lightley touching second and then firing on to first.
"That's a good club (Butler) we played," Finnegan said. "They're one game away from taking off, that's the unfortunate thing you just don't know what game that is."
Ulmer scattered two hits over the rest of his outing and was supported when Aeneas Roberson cracked a line-drive two run homer to left in the ninth inning for his second collegiate homer and first since Valentine's Day 2016 when he took Western Nebraska deep.
The weather indicates increased winds blowing out for Sunday when Games 3 and 4 of the series will be played. Both contests can be heard on ESPN 99.9 and westernkansasnews.com with the pre-game beginning at 12:45 and the first pitch scheduled for 1pm.