By Mike Pilosof
Pratt, KS-There was plenty of drama during Thursday's series opener with Pratt; although none of it had anything to do with baseball.
There were 50 mph winds, power outages, and even dogs barking. But in the end, the Broncbusters persevered through all of it, and put together two of their more impressive offensive showings.
"I'm really proud of how we minimized things against a really good offensive club," Broncbusters Coach Chris Finnegan said.
Starter Austin Stone did his best to keep Garden City afloat early in game one. After getting the Beavers to go down in order in the first, Stone gave up three runs in the second. But it was his work with the bases loaded that was the difference.
With the sacks full and his team trailing 3-1, Stone fell behind Trace Maddux 3-2. Staring at a possible early-inning collapse, the redshirt freshman threw a filthy breaking ball that froze Pratt's designated hitter and ended the inning.
"That could have been so much worse," Finnegan said. "Austin didn't have his best stuff, be he minimized the big inning. That's what we ask all of these guys to do."
With new life, the Broncbusters slowly chipped away at the deficit. In the fourth, Chris Lara reached on an infield single; then scored on Ty Lightley's RBI base hit to cut the Pratt (15-26, 7-19) lead to 3-2. An inning later, Truslow ripped a two-out run-scoring double off of Beavers' starter Dalton Huggins that tied the game a 3.
"It's good to see the offense put some things together," Finnegan said. "But I'm just proud of how they battled."
Garden City (22-21, 8-14) took the lead for good in the sixth. Darien Burns singled to right, Lightley drew a five-pitch walk, and ReJean Bourget bunted the runners over. That setup Griffin Brunson, who hammered an 0-2 breaking ball from Huggins to left-center field, allowing two runs to score, and giving the Broncbusters a 5-3 edge.
"Our bullpen has done a decent job, considering we put a lot of pressure on them," Finnegan said.
Darrian Aldridge bunted Eric Escamilla and Khalir Vazquez into scoring position. That's when Chris Lara made the play of the game at third.
With the freshman playing in at the corner, Elerie Rivera hit a hot shot towards the bag. Lara backhanded it before tossing a line-drive strike to Young at first to get the Rivera. The play held Escamilla at third, and prevented what should have been a double down the line.
"Our defense did a really good job," Finnegan said.
Pratt made things interesting in the seventh, loading the bases against Yakel with one out. After getting Escamilla to pop out, Sean Johnson scored on a passed ball to cut it to a one-run game. But Yakel avoided further drama, getting pinch hitter Keaton Gage to ground into a force play at third, ending the game.
Stone labored through five innings, tossing 89 pitches. But he worked out of trouble a couple of times for his fifth win of the season. Yakel allowed one run on two hits in relief-earning his second straight save, and Young, Lara and Burns all collected two hits.
Huggins took the loss for Pratt, giving up four earned runs on 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out six but walked two. Ashton Roy was 2-for-3 at the dish.
Game two was much wilder.
With severe-thunderstorm type winds swirling around the ballpark, the two offenses combined for 25 runs and 17 hits. And it was Young that got things started in the first, smashing a solo home run over the left-field wall.
Pratt answered with their own long ball in the third when Vazquez hammered Paxton Robinson's fastball for a two-run shot to left, giving the Beavers a 2-1 edge.
"I know we gave up seven runs in game two, but considering how good of an offensive team Pratt is, we kept them off balance all day," Finnegan said.
Garden City tied the game in the fourth on Burns RBI double. Then, after falling behind again in the fourth when Lara touched a slow rolling bunt off the bat of Vazquez that scored Johnson from third on a ball that would have spun foul, the Broncbusters ended all doubt in the fifth.
Garden City sent 14 men to the plate, scoring 11 runs on six hits, fueled by Young's RBI double and Truslow's bases-clearing triple. Sprinkle in Tyrus Barclay's two-run single, and Garden City turned a one-run deficit into a 13-3 advantage.
"We really got things going there," Finnegan said. "This is a tough ballpark to play in because Pratt is so good at home. But we found some rhythm, and never allowed them to find theirs."
Pratt bounced back with three runs in the bottom half. But Garden City never let the Beavers back in it. Russel Cruz scored on a wild pitch, and Clint Allen added a sacrifice fly in the sixth. In the eighth, Cruz and Brunson scored on wild pitches by Luqman Ali before Truslow hit a sac fly to put the Broncbusters up 11 runs.
Jacob Douglas closed out the run-rule in the bottom of the frame.
Douglas picked up the win in relief, giving up three runs, including two homers in four innings. Robinson started and was tagged for two runs on two hits in three innings, and Truslow drove in four.
Declan Steel took the loss for the Beavers, surrendering five runs on five hits, in four innings.
Next up: Because of the weather conditions expected on Saturday, the final two games of the series have been moved to Sunday. 11:45 a.m. pregame; 12 p.m. first pitch on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnws.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app