For just the second time in its seventh conference series the Barton Community College baseball team had to rebound from a game one loss, and just like the first time, the No. 17 ranked Cougars bounced back for a doubleheader split. In front of nine major league scouts, the T-Birds of Cloud County Community College took game one 4-1 in the battle of ace hurlers but the Cougars prevailed in the middle innings of the nightcap to prevail 11-9. With the back end of the series resuming at 1:00 p.m. Friday in Concordia, Barton will look to further improve its first place standing of 19-7 and 36-10 on the season while third place Cloud County looks to improve its standing in trailing Butler at 15-11 and 25-19 overall.
In a much anticipated meeting between the Cougars' Josh Hendrickson and Cloud County's Erik Sabrowski, scoring was at a premium as expected with the teams battling scoreless through the first three innings as Hendrickson struck out three while the four-time player of the week for the T-Birds sent six Barton batters back to the dugout on strikeouts.
The T-Birds got the all-important first runs on the board in the fourth, breaking through with a two-out single and double to plate a pair of runs.
Barton would manage just three hits off the 6'4" Canadian lefty, the first coming in the home half of the fourth on Harrison Denk's leadoff single. The Cougars put two on in the ensuing fifth frame as Brady Michel reached on a wild pitch third strike, stole his first of two bases on the day, and drew a Paul Claassen walk as Sabrowski thwarted the threat recording three strikeouts in the inning.
The Cougars broke up the shutout in the sixth inning, beginning with Kaden Fowler's double to right field before scoring on Carson Engroff's single but Sabrowski was able to record another strikeout and induce a pop-up to end the threat.
Cloud County would give the hurler a pair of insurance runs in the seventh on three hits with Sabrowski sending Barton down in order including two punch outs in finishing with thirteen total on the day improving to 7-1 on the year. Hendrickson struck out seven in the 6'4" Australian lefty's complete game, scattering nine hits in dropping to 8-2 on the season.
Game two was a total flip of the scrip as Barton pounded out seventeen hits on four Cloud County pitchers while the four arms donning the Cougar blue limited the T-Bird bats to just six hits.
A one-out walk scored on a two-out single to give the T-Birds the early edge but responded with a five spot in the home half with a two-out rally.
One of three Cougars to collect three hits in the nightcap, Denk led off the inning with a single but Barton was down to their last strike as Brett Bonar fought off a 1-2 pitch before connecting on a single up the middle. Driving in five of the Cougars' eleven runs, Michel's first three came on the long ball as the Great Bend sophomore drove his 7th home run over the season over the left field wall. A Brett Erickson walk later, Dawson Pomeroy also connected to left field for his 4th Pom Bomb of the Topeka sophomore's season giving the Cougars a 5-1 lead.
A hit by pitch followed by the first of two Barton errors in the frame began the Cloud County five-run response in the ensuing second inning. A single loaded the bases with a walk and sacrifice fly accounting for the first two runs. Starter Andrew Repp induced a pop-up for the second out but the Cougars' second miscue plated two runs as a single up the middle tacked on another with Easton Smith coming in for the final out with Barton now trailing 6-5.
Denk's leadoff double chased the T-Bird starter Jackson Dietel with Engroff's groundout tying it up at six through the first two innings.
Barton gained separation with a pair of runs in each of the fourth and fifth innings with Michel's 22nd double of the year driving in Engroff and Bonar singles in the fourth while Denk's single and Engroff's 8th two-bagger of the year pushing the lead to 10-6.
The teams traded solo runs in the sixth with a Cloud County single scoring a reached on error to begin the inning with the Cougars scoring one as Erickson 12th double of the year scored after a Pomeroy sac bunt and a balk coming on a 1-2 two-out pitch.
Smith's 4.1 innings of one hit pitching improving to 3-0 on the season gave way to Tanner Howe in the seventh with a two-out RBI triple and error allowed Cloud County to cut the deficit in half to 11-9.
Howe sent the T-Birds down in order in the 8th including two strikeouts, giving way to Pomeroy to close out the ninth in stranding a two-out hit-by-pitch chalking up the second of two punch outs in earning his third save of the season.
Michel's five RBIs led the Cougars in being joined by Denk and Bonar with three hits each as the Cougar bats pounded seven of their seventeen hits in extra-base variety.