The home opener was put on hold. Due to the weather expected in Great Bend over the weekend, the Barton Community College baseball team switched venues for its 4-game series.
So instead of hosting Western Nebraska, the Cougars traveled to Scottsbluff, Neb. for a pair of games Friday and Saturday. Barton split games both days to go 2-2 on the weekend. The Cougars are now 4-3 overall on the season.
“We are now on the road the entire month of February. That should gain us valuable experience for the conference season,” Coach Brent Biggs said.
“The pitching staff continued to build on their early season success. It’s fun to watch our guys compete on the mound. No one wants to be the guy to give up a big inning.”
It was a weekend that saw that pitching staff allow just seven runs in the four games and strike out 42 batters.
Barton lost 2-1 to open the series Friday then won 3-1 in the nightcap. The Cougars took game one Saturday 5-1 but lost the finale 3-2.
In the opener the Cougars led 1-0 going into the bottom of the seventh in the scheduled 7-inning contest – just three outs from a win. But Western Nebraska rallied with a leadoff double that eventually scored on a play at the plate to send the game to extra innings.
It stayed 1-all until the bottom of the ninth when Western Nebraska scored without a hit. A leadoff walk and error on the ensuing sacrifice bunt put two on with no outs. After a sac bunt to move the runners up Michaud Ball scored on a passed ball to end the game.
Barton outhit Western Nebraska 7-4 and only allowed three walks to 13 strikeouts. Trevor Turner had three hits for the Cougars. Alex Evans led the pitching with five 2-hit innings in the start, striking out eight and walking just one.
In the nightcap Friday, Barton got a tremendous pitching performance from Wichita sophomore Jordan Plank. The Heights graduate struck out 11 in his seven innings, allowing five hits and two walks to move to 2-0. The lone run he gave up was in the first when a one-out walk turned into a run after a stolen base and single.
Barton, which had a taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on a single by Evan McDonald to score Jacob Richardson, recaptured the lead in the third. This time McDonald homered for his second RBI of the game. The Cougars added an insurance run in the top of the seventh on a Xavier Sundman single that scored Trevor Hughes.
The pitching was strong again in the opener Saturday as Blaine Hill and Mitch Malherbe combined for a 2-hitter. Hill got the start, going five innings allowing the lone run on both hits. He struck out eight and walked three for the win to even his record at 1-1.
Malherbe was dominate in his two innings. The left-handed freshman from Edmond, Okla. stuck out five of the seven batters he faced allowing just one runner on a 2-out walk in the seventh. Malherbe struck out the side swinging in the sixth on just 12 pitches for his first save.
Barton trailed 1-0 going into the fifth where the Cougars put up three runs – all with two outs. The Cougars loaded the bases on a pair of walks and a fielder’s choice when Grant Watkins tied the game on a 2-out single to score Dylan Kuhn. It was one of three hits for Barton first baseman.
Richardson gave Barton the lead when he scored on a passed ball and Barton made it 3-1 on Bryce Minor single to score Evan McDonald. Barton added single runs in the sixth and seventh.
Barton fell behind 3-1 through two innings of the series finale and couldn’t catch-up. The Cougars made things interesting in the fifth as Watkins singled in Richardson who had tripled with one out. But Barton would get only one base runner in the final two innings and never got him in scoring position.
“Offensively I thought we were better this weekend than last weekend,” Coach Biggs said. “We still are nowhere near where we need to be offensively but we showed some signs of progress. We have some really good hitters on this team and it’s only a matter of time before they break out of this offensive funk.”
The Cougars home-opener will now be March 7-8 when Cloud County visits Lawson Biggs Field for a 4-game series in Jayhawk West play. Barton is on the road this weekend for a 3-game series in Midwest City, Okla. against Rose State College.
“We left Western Nebraska with a bitter taste in our mouths and ready to get back on the field,” Coach Biggs said. “Baseball is a funny game. We were a tag at home plate away from winning game one in the bottom of the seventh which would have given us another road series win. Instead we returned with a series split thinking what could have been.
“This week our focus will be on the little things that win baseball games.”