February 27, 2024

Rivals denied; Busters take first two from Dodge


Final Highlights: GCCC vs. Dodge City 

Garden City, Kan (westernkansanews.com)-After Garden City dropped three of four against Colby back in March, Chris Finnegan had to rally his troops. He did so without a “gipper” speech. 

“I told the guys that we just need to play .500 ball from here on out,” he said. “I wanted to bring down our expectations.”

The Busters have played anything but .500 ball since.

JJ Benes pitched seven strong innings in game one followed by a strong relief effort by Finnegan’s bullpen in the finale as Garden City took the first two games from Dodge City Friday afternoon at Williams Stadium 3-1 and 7-6. 

“We scored more runs than they did,” Finnegan said sarcastically after the game. “We won these games on grit and determination to be honest.”

That’s a perfect way to describe it as Garden City (30-18, 19-11) had to crawl their way back from deficits in both contests. In the opener, Dodge City (28-20, 13-13) struck in the third with a one-out RBI double by Haden Houska. And as all treacherous innings start, Benes issued a lead-off walk to catcher Jerry Lacayo-who eventually came around to score.

 “They’re a good club; they really are,” Finnegan said. “We just got lucky with a couple of innings.”

After that rocky frame, Benes settled down and and cruised the rest of the way. His offense also got a boost from Francisco Alvarez, who tied the game with a run-scoring single in the bottom of the fourth off Conquistadors ace Sam Brunner. The freshman was a perfect 3-for-3 at the dish.  

Then with two outs in the fifth, Nolan Barrientos, who also recorded two hits in game one, hit a flare into left field and watched it fall in front of Parker Jones. Cale Dineen and Tyler Tucker scored to give the Busters a 3-1 advantage. 

Benes was splendid over the final four innings-retiring 10-out-of the final 11 Dodge City batters he faced. His three-hit, complete-game performance improved his mark to 6-3. 

In the second game-Garden City spotted the Conquistadors a 4-1 lead. With one out in the second, Lacayo drew a five-pitch walk. Leno Ramirez followed with a single to left-center field. Then Croix Sedillo smacked the first pitch he saw from Jake Eikleberry into left scoring Lacayo. After Damion Orr flew out to left, it appeared the sophomore southpaw would get out of the inning without any more damage. But it continued with Dineen’s error at third and Jordan Doane’s infield, RBI single. 

Houska’s run-scoring double and Doan’s RBI ground out in the fourth gave the Conquistadors a three-run cushion. But the Busters answered back in the fifth on the back of Rocky Desantis’s two-run shot to center field. 

After surrendering a two-out RBI double to Conner Koepp in the sixth, Garden City took the lead for good in the bottom half. With one out, Kadin Hydrick took third on Ramirez’s throwing error. Dineen then laced a line-drive right up the middle to pull the Busters within one. With one on and one out, Tyler Tucker took Andrew Ridell’s 1-0 pitch over the left-field wall. When the freshman from Broomfield, CO crossed home plate, Garden City had a 6-5 advantage. 

Tyler Allitz padded the lead in the seventh with his lead-off homer. The Conquistadors answered back by tagging reliever Josh Thomas for a run in the ninth on Orr’s sacrifice fly. But Marcus McKinney came in nailed it down-getting Houska to fly out to left and striking out Doan to end it. 

Austin Aspegren picked up his first victory of the season, and he definitely earned it. After getting into a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, it looked like Finnegan would pull the sidearm-throwing righty. In fact, Dalton Cook had already jogged in a few steps from the left-field bullpen. But the veteran skipper called him off and Finnegan left him in there. 

“I just gave him the old fiery speech,” Finnegan said. “He knew the situation, but I fired him up a bit.”

The speech worked as the sophomore got Doan to strike out swinging. 

McKinney picked up his second save of the year. Dodge City reliever Luke Crabb fell to 4-1. 

Final Box Scores: box game 1 | box game 2

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