PRATT— With its slim title hopes gone the Barton Community College baseball team must now turn focus to its seeding in the upcoming Region VI post season play.
That began in Pratt Tuesday afternoon with the conclusion of a 4-game Jayhawk West series. Barton split games with Pratt at Stanion Field, winning the opener 10-5 then dropping the finale 9-1. Unfortunately that gave Pratt a 3-1 win in the series and put Barton on the outside looking in for a top four finish in the West and a home playoffs series.
Currently the Cougars sit just one game out of third place but are in sixth. Barton is 14-14 in the West while Hutchinson, Garden City and Butler all are 15-13. The task will be a tall one for Barton to pass them as West leading Seward comes to Lawson-Biggs Field this weekend to wrap up the regular season.
Seward is currently 19-9 in the West and has won 10 straight conference games and 11 of the past 12. Hutch will travel to Garden City while Butler gets Colby (8-16) to wrap up the conference. Dodge City (17-11) will take on Pratt (13-15),
The Pratt series was originally scheduled for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday but was quickly moved doubleheaders Saturday and Sunday with the rains Friday. The next two days weren’t as smooth.
Saturday Barton went to Pratt, hit inside then got rained out and came back. Sunday the Cougars were en route to Pratt but about 15 miles out of town the call came and they again turned around and came home. Finally the teams got to play two on Monday which the Beavers swept before the split Tuesday.
“Junior college baseball is a funny thing sometimes and it is definitely unpredictable,” Coach Brent Biggs said “We had plenty to play for against Pratt and came out extremely flat.”
After being swept Monday it didn’t start good Tuesday following a 5-run second inning capped with a Skylar Dean home run by the Beavers to give Pratt a 5-2 lead.
But Barton whittled away at the lead.
The Cougars cut it to 5-3 in the third on a Lance White double to score Trevor Turner. Two innings later Barton made it 5-4 when Grant Watkins hit a sacrifice fly to score Evan McDonald in the fifth.
Then the flood gates opened in the sixth. The Cougars collected five hits in the inning, starting with three straight singles from Tyler Jennings, Jacob Richardson and Dylan Kuhn to load the bases. Jennings scored on a fielder’s choice to tie the game then McDonald gave Barton the lead with a single to score Richardson and Kuhn. Turner capped the inning with a double to score Kuhn and Barton had an 8-5 advantage.
McDonald singled in two more the next inning – a hard grounder to left that brought home Kuhn and Austin Hall – to add some insurance in the 10-5 win.
McDonald drove in four on three hits to lead the offense while Jackson Rose threw 2 1/3 innings of 1-hit scoreless relief to pick up the win and improve to 6-1.
The series finale started much like the first game Tuesday with Pratt putting up a big number in the second inning to take a lead. A 6-run second inning the Beavers a 6-1 advantage and Barton did not have a rally in itself this time.
The Cougars collected seven hits – all singles – in the loss with Jennings getting two.
The final weekend will determine a lot for several teams in the West. Seward will come to Barton for twinbills Saturday and Sunday at Lawson-Biggs Field. Start time for both days is 1 p.m.
“We will need to recover quickly as a red-hot, first place Seward team comes to town this weekend,” Coach Biggs said. “A home playoff spot is still up for grabs so it should be a fun weekend of baseball.”
Barton’s first goal this weekend will be to get a home playoff series – that would take at least three and probably four wins to achieve.
The second goal will be not to slip behind Pratt in the standings. That would mean an opening round trip to No. 5 Johnson County (41-8), which currently sits second in the Jayhawk East to the top ranked team in the nation, Cowley (43-3).