By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-It's something that had not happened in more than two years.
You would have to go all the way back to Mar. 29, 2015 to find the last time Garden City was swept in a conference series. That was until Saturday, when No. 11 Hutchinson proved their worth as the best team in the Jayhawk Conference.
The Blue Dragons smashed four more home runs as Hutchinson swept their second straight conference series, taking the final two from Garden City 4-1 and 14-4.
"Hutchinson is a very good team," Broncbusters Coach Chris Finnegan said. "We knew that coming in. There were no surprises. We fought with them."
As they did on Friday, Garden City (25-21, 11-13) hung right with the Blue Dragons. Broncbusters starter Ryder Yakel was dazzling for the most part, shutting down Hutchinson's high-potent attack.
After surrendering a second-inning, solo home run to Nolan Hakel, Yakel retired 12 out of the next 14 batters he faced. His final stat line: four runs on four hits and three strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. But it was a single frame that cost him his fifth win of the season.
Alex Eskridge's RBI single in the third tied the score 1-1. The game stayed that way until that fatal sixth inning. That's when the seas opened.
"That's how this entire series went," Finnegan explained. "One inning in each of the four games did us in."
With one out, Shane Cooper and Michael Helman singled. Both runners advanced a base on a wild pitch by Yakel before Bobby Morgensen ripped a two-run double to make it 3-1 Blue Dragons. Finnegan then pulled Yakel for Mitchell Savine, but it did not matter. Hakel followed with a run-scoring triple that pushed the lead to 4-1.
Hutchinson starter Wyatt Divis took it from there, retiring the final six Broncbuster hitters to improve to 3-2 on the season. He allowed just one run on five hits while striking out three in a complete-game performance.
In the finale, the Blue Dragons took control from the start.
Brady Hoover's towering two-run shot coupled with Morgensen's RBI single in the first gave Hutchinson (34-11, 22-6) a 3-0 lead.
In the second, it appeared Kendrick Catron was on his way to a 1-2-3 inning before issuing back-to-back two-out walks to Julian Rip and Cooper. Then it was Helman, tattooing his 15th home run of the season: a three-run bomb that made it 6-0.
Billy Clark got the Broncbusters on the board in the third when he took Grady Kirkhart deep. But the Blue Dragons responded right back with a run in the fourth and six more in the fifth, fueled by Hakel's two-run homer and Helman's two-run single with the bases loaded to put Hutchinson up 13-1.
After Alex Nielsen's RBI double, Jesse Gonzales's run-scoring single and Rafael Viella's sacrifice fly in the bottom half made it 13-4, Hutchinson added one more run in the sixth when Ripp came home on a pickoff attempt at first base.
"That's how good Hutchinson is," Finnegan said. "They make you pay for your mistakes. We made a lot of mistakes."
During the four-game series, the Blue Dragons scored 51 runs. They've now won eight straight games.
Garden City lost their fifth straight conference contest, dropping them into fifth place in the Jayhawk West.
Grady Kirkhart improved to 3-1 on the bump, allowing just one run on two hits in four innings. Catron fell to 2-4 for Garden City, yielding six runs on four hits in two innings.
Next up: Garden City at Frank Phillips-Wednesday, April 19-3 p.m. first pitch