Storming Lawson-Biggs Field like it was 1994, the Barton Community College baseball team captured its first Jayhawk West title in twenty-four years with a 9-0 game one victory Saturday over Butler Community College. Going back to work for game two, it took the 18th ranked Cougars five innings to recover from the hang over before plating consecutive three run innings for the come from behind victory in concluding the regular season with the salvaged series split. Barton's conference title mark improved to 23-9 and 40-12 overall while dropping Butler three games back in second place at 20-12 and 34-17. Next up for the region's second seeded Cougars is hosting a best-of-three series in the first round of the Region VI playoffs beginning Friday against Allen County Community College, seeded 15th in concluding the regular season eighth in the East Division at 14-22 and 25-25 overall.
Having lost consecutive games for just the second time of the season in a doubleheader loss at Butler two days prior, the Cougars set the tone early in its quest of the championship.
Starter Zach Curry struck out two in sending the Grizzlies down in order to begin the contest, quickly turning the frame to the offense.
Beginning with a Harrison Denk walk, a wild pitch later and Barton got all the runs they needed from Kaden Fowler began his perfect 3-for-3 game at the plate driving in the game winning RBI with a single to right field. Four more runs would cross the dish as the Cougars sent all nine to the plate in the inning with Brett Bonar and Brett Erickson each connecting on RBI doubles.
Curry kept Butler completely out of the game, sending the Grizzlies down in order four straight innings before a leadoff fifth inning single broke up the no-no. A two-out base hit would be the final single on the Ottawa, Kansas, freshman in ending the threat with his ninth strikeout. Surrendering just the two base hits, Curry went the distance improving to 6-0 in facing just two batters over the minimum finishing with a career high twelve strikeouts and incredible command of no wild pitches nor walks.
With the 5-0 first inning lead and Curry in full command of the mound, Brady Michel and Erickson each drove in second inning runs with Fowler's third inning sacrifice fly pushing Barton's lead to 8-0 through the first three frames. Michel would later put the icing on the cake with a sixth inning single to lead the squad in his third RBI.
Although the contest was anti-climactic in terms of suspense, for Barton fans including former Cougar greats Roger Ward and Derek Pomeroy in attendance, a ground out to Paul Claassen at shortstop with a perfect throw across the diamond to Carson Engroff was nothing short of a perfect ending as the boys in blue set speed records out of the dugout for the mass dog pile on the historic Lawson-Biggs Field infield.
In game two it was the Grizzlies who jumped out front first with a double driving home a single run in the first. The lead increased by two in the third frame behind a double driving in a one-out triple, with another run cross on one of two Barton errors in the game. The second error came two innings later in allowing a leadoff runner aboard with a double building the Grizzly advantage to four.
Starting to snap out of their championship hangover, Claassen started a three-run Cougar inning with a one-out single before swiping his seventh stolen base of the year. Engroff followed an out later with a single on the first of his team leading three runs batted in. Consecutive RBI doubles by Bonar and Michel cut the deficit to 4-3.
Butler took advantage of a hit-by-pitch to open up the ensuing sixth of the scheduled nine innings with a single and sacrifice line out to left field putting the margin back to two.
Isiah Perez and Jared Maneth walks chased Butler starter James Leitch from mound with Claassen lacing a one-out single on reliever Jack Maki to load the bases. Fowler grounded out to plate one with Engroff driving in two more putting the Cougars on top for good at 6-5.
Four Cougars took the mound after Nolan Riley's 4.1 innings with Neil Lemmons' next-man-up pitching 1.2 innings to get the win earning the Wichita sophomore's first win of the year. Austin Taylor, Patrick McClure each struck out two in their one innings of work with Tanner Howe closing out the ninth for Overland Park freshman's third save of the year.