The 19th ranked Barton Community College baseball team fell 6-5 in Sunday's winner's bracket final of the Region VI /District Tournament as the 8th ranked Cowley College Tigers rallied with two late runs to send the Cougars to Monday's elimination game. Dropping to 44-13 on the year, Barton returns to Wichita's Lawrence-Dumont Stadium on Monday to play the 4:00 p.m. elimination bracket final against Hutchinson (39-22) as the Blue Dragons rallied for a 12-11 win to eliminate Johnson County late Sunday night. Cowley (45-9) awaits the survivor in Monday's 7:00 p.m. championship game with Tuesday's 7:00 p.m. second championship game penciled on the calendar as the Tigers will need to be beaten twice for the national tournament berth.
The Tigers jumped on top in the second as an apparent third strike turned into a base hit followed with a catcher's interference put two aboard with no outs. An infield throwing error allowed both runs to score but Augusta freshman Nolan Riley battled back to induce a come-backer then struck out the next two batters to prevent a big inning.
Paul Claassen scorched a grounder to reach on 1-out error the ensuing inning, advancing to second on a passed ball before scoring on Harrison Denk's blooped two-out single just out of the reach from a great diving effort by the Cowley centerfield Kea'von Edwards in cutting the deficit to one.
With field turf temperatures over 90, Cowley would break through on a seemingly tiring Riley in the fourth getting a leadoff single followed by consecutive one-out walks to load the bases. A hit-by-pitch and another walk forced across two runs with Tanner Howe called in to put out the fire. The Overland Park freshman did just that, striking out the first batter before inducing a harmless fly ball to right field to keep Barton within a 4-1 striking distance.
Claassen kick-started the lead change in the ensuing fifth with a leadoff single, scoring on Chandler Kelley's deep double to right center on the Maize freshman's fourth two-bagger of the year. Kelley then kept the inning rolling beating Denk's turf chopper to deep shortstop with a pop-up slide into third giving Barton runners at the corners. The turf came through again to help the Cougars in the next at-bat as Engroff's line drive took a high hop over the left fielder's mitt for the Topeka sophomore's fourth triple of the year driving in the tying run.
Both teams committed three errors in the game proving costly, with Brett Bonar and the Cougars benefitting from a deep line drive to center that skipped off the mitt of Edwards allowing Engroff to trot home from third with the go-ahead run.
Following Denk's incredible laid out catch in left field to rob a seventh inning liner, Cowley benefitted from the turf hop as a centerfield hit turned into a two-bagger. The hop proved to be critical as a single to deep center plated the tying run and thus ended the day for Howe. Easton Smith took over and imitated Howe's earlier relief performance, getting a strike out before an inning ending single.
As Denk had a great play for the Cougars in the seventh, Tiger catcher Dalton Dinkel made a great play to thwart a potential Barton tying run in gunning out Erickson's stolen base attempt for the second out.
A leadoff single sacrificed to second followed by a single began the Cowley eighth inning, with a sacrifice fly to right field provided the winning run as the slide was just ahead of the tag.
Brandon Jordan sent the Cougars down in order in the ninth dropping Smith to 4-1 on the season and Barton into Monday's elimination bracket final.