LIBERAL - Two one-run games would lead to a road doubleheader split for the Cloud County Community College baseball team following a 5-4 loss with a 6-5 win over Seward County Community College at Brent Gould Field in Liberal on Friday.
A third consecutive doubleheader split to open the conference season puts Cloud County at 12-9 overall and 3-3 in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference while the host Saints now sit at 12-15 overall and 3-3 in the KJCCC.
Miscues would ultimately be the deciding factor in the series opener between CCCC and SCCC as 18 stranded base runners and two errors between the two teams would prove to play a role in a game that saw just one lead of more than one run. Neither team would be able to push across a run in the first inning with Seward County stranding a pair of singles to lead off the bottom of the first before seeing Cloud County put together three-consecutive one-out singles in the top of the second to plate a run on a Gavin Roy RBI single to score reigning KJCCC West Player of the Week Kolden Howerton.
Giving up a walk before getting a popout and strikeout to end the second, the T-Birds would string together three more base-hit singles to start the top of the third to load the bases before striking again two batters later with a Brock Wollin two-RBI single that would score both Eric Foufoulas and Paul Schuyler to give CCCC a 3-0 lead. With two runners still on and just one out, Cloud County would end up seeing a flyout and strikeout end the inning with two base runners stranded as an opportunity to break the game open would go by the wayside.
Responding with two runs in the bottom of the third with four-straight singles to get on the scoreboard and pull within one at 3-2, Seward County would surrender a single run to Cloud County in the top of the fourth as a leadoff single from Roy would come around to score on a Schuyler RBI groundout to allow the T-Birds to score for the third consecutive inning. A leadoff home run in the bottom of the fourth would see SCCC once again match the scoring output in an inning that CCCC would be able to muster as a two-run lead would again be brought back to just one. Following the home run, Seward County would get an infield single and error followed by a fielding error on a fly ball that would put runners on the corners with the Saints eventually load the bases on a hit batter. A walk to the next batter would bring home an unearned run for SCCC as Cloud County and Seward County would become knotted up at 4-4 before a second T-Bird pitching change in the inning to bring in Brady Stuewe who would get out of the jam with a strikeout to strand three Saint runners.
Retired in order in the top of the fifth, CCCC would manage to hold strong defensively in the bottom of the inning after allowing a pair of two-out singles to get a groundout to end the inning with the T-Birds managing to avoid danger with two more stranded base runners for Seward County. Both teams would then strand a pair of runners in the sixth inning with chances to score go-ahead runs not coming through on either end. In what would become their final opportunity at the plate, Cloud County would be unable to record a hit and put just one base runner on with two outs on a hit batter before being forced to head back out defensively to try and keep things tied to force extra-innings. A leadoff double for Seward County would be followed by a strikeout and groundout on what would initially look to be a hard-hit ground ball that was destined for the outfield grass that would ultimately move the game-winning run from second to third. Needing just one out to strand the runner, a wild pitch on the first pitch of the next at-bat would allow for Trenton Rowan to break for home and score the Saints in walk-off fashion as Cloud County would drop their second-straight conference series opener.
Recording nine hits but being held without an extra-base hit, Cloud County would see seven stranded base runners loom large despite forcing the Saints to leave 11 base runners aboard when innings would end in their offensive ends of innings. Roy and Foufoulas for CCCC would each record two hits in the game with Wollin finishing as the lone T-Bird to drive in multiple runs while the four runs scored would come from four different players for Cloud County.
Five different player for CCCC would see time on the mound in the game with Cayden Castellanos taking a no-decision after getting the start and throwing 3.1 innings while allowing four runs (three earned) and striking out two of the 19 batters he faced. Mason Munz and Stuewe would each throw 0.1 innings before seeing Phil Brennamen (one inning) and Cole Askew (1.2 innings) each seeing action with Askew dropping to 0-1 after allowing the walk-off run on one hit and one walk.
Looking to salvage a split of the day, Cloud County would overcome a scoreless opening inning of action to break through for a pair of runs in the top of the second with a Howerton double and Demitri Shakotko one-out single putting a pair of runners on for a Landon Meyer two-RBI triple to put the T-Birds on board and out to an early 2-0 lead. The lead for Cloud County would grow again in the top of the third as three-straight batters would safely reach to begin the inning with Schuyler, Caden Walker, and Danny Infante all coming around to score in the inning as CCCC would go up 5-0 heading into the bottom of the third.
Defensive miscues for the T-Birds would prove costly in the bottom half of the inning as a leadoff bunt single and throwing error would put a runner in scoring position before seeing a one-out walk and pair of passed balls put runners at second and third. Another error by the CCCC defense would see two runs come home with only one of the runs being earned. Things would then remain a 5-2 game through the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings with both Cloud County starting pitcher Mason McConnaughey and Seward County reliever Brady Ritzmann settling in to allow just four total hits over the three innings.
After getting a momentum-shifting inning-ending double play to erase a leadoff base runner for Cloud County in the top of the seventh, SCCC would manage to cut into the CCCC lead with a run in the bottom of the seventh as another T-Bird fielding error would lead to an unearned run with the Cloud County lead down to two at 5-3. The top of the eighth would see CCCC get the run surrendered in the seventh back as a leadoff Shakotko single would come around to score on a Meyer RBI single with an insurance run pushing the lead back out to three.
Opting to make a change on the mound after seven quality innings from McConnaughey, Cloud County would bring in Stuewe for the second-straight game and see a one-out single and walk eventually lead to a run following a T-Bird throwing error on a fielder's choice that would have potentially been an inning-ending double play. Holding on to a two-run lead heading to the ninth, Cloud County would be unable to turn an Infante one-out single into any offensive production to head to the bottom of the inning with a two-run advantage and just three outs away from securing a game-two win.
The final three outs of the game would not come easy for CCCC as a popup would be followed by a hit batter and balk to put a runner in scoring position before a walk to put the game-tying run on base. An RBI single from Tristan Curless for Seward County would cut the Cloud County lead down to one and put a Saint game-tying runner just 90 feet away from tying the game before seeing SCCC get aggressive following a mound visit with a stolen base putting the game-winning run in scoring position. Holding strong on the mound, Stuewe would focus on the task at hand and induce back-to-back strikeouts to end the game as Cloud County would hang on for the one-run victory to earn their second one-run victory of the year.
Following up their nine-hit game-one with 12 hits in game two, the T-Birds would be led by a four-for-four performance from Shakotko who would also score twice while Meyer would collect three hits in four at-bats and drive in a game-high three runs. Howerton would also finish with multiple hits in the game for CCCC, with the six through eight-hole hitters for CCCC combining for eight of the 12 hits. Improving to 4-1 on the mound would be McConnaughey after going seven innings and allowing just three runs (zero earned) on six hits while striking out seven in the longest outing of the year for any T-Bird pitcher. Stuewe would pick up his first save of the year after throwing the final two innings and allowing two runs (one earned) and recording four strikeouts in his fifth appearance of the year.
CCCC will kick off a five-game homestand on Sunday, March 19th when the series between Cloud County and Seward County concludes with a 2 PM doubleheader at Lee Doyen Field. The T-Birds will be looking for a series victory and second-straight home doubleheader sweep over the Saints in as many seasons while SCCC will be looking to split a road doubleheader in Concordia for the third time in the past four seasons.