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Cougar Baseball navigates unchartered waters to salvage conference split at Pratt #GoBarton

Barton Baseball's Easton Smith throws pitch

The No. 15 ranked Barton Community College baseball found itself in unfamiliar territory Thursday as the Cougars dropped its first opening game of a conference series in a 5-3 loss at Pratt Community College, before striking back in the nightcap 13-6 to salvage the day's doubleheader. The results leave Barton two games in front of the conference race at 10-4 and 25-7 while Pratt stands at 5-13 in the Jayhawk and 11-20 overall. The four-game series resumes on Saturday in switching venues to the Cougars' Lawson-Biggs Field for a 1:00 p.m. first pitch.

The first leg of the doubleheader is a slated seven innings with the teams battling scoreless through the first 4.5 innings as the Cougars struggled against Pratt's Sean McElwee while unbeaten Josh Hendrickson kept Pratt in check.

Pratt's third double of the game would put the Beavers on the board first as Carl Cooper doubled with one out in the fifth.  Advancing on a passed ball, three pitches later Cooper crossed the dish on a rare Hendrickson wild pitch.

The Cougars immediately struck back in the ensuing inning with Carson Engroff leading off with his second hit of the game to lead Barton with a 2-for-4 performance. With deep drives to the outfield, consecutive ground rule doubles by Brady Michel's 15th of the year and Brett Erickson's 8th of the season tied the ball game up. Jared Maneth followed with an RBI single with Paul "The Sac Man" Claassen giving Barton a 3-1 lead on a centerfield fly for his team leading ninth sacrifice of the season.

Hendrickson returned to the mound striking out the first two batters for his 10th of the game but a single, walk, and RBI hit signaled a call to the bullpen. Inheriting the two aboard with two outs, Dawson Pomeroy barely got warmed up as Cooper launched the first pitch over the right field fence for the freshman from Bahamas' first collegiate home run.

The shell-shocked Cougars had no answer in the seventh as the order went down 1-2-3 in the Pratt victory while dropping Hendrickson to 6-1 on the year.

Engroff's pair of singles led the Cougars in the opener as Barton was held to just six total hits.

Batting .526 in the past six games, Andale freshman Harrison Denk was moved to the top of the lineup to try and shake up and spark the lineup's production to salvage the split. Coach Biggs' move, along with the proven resilient Cougars, responded with sixteen hits in the nightcap as Denk and Kaden Fowler at the top of list combined for seven of the Cougars' sixteen hits.

Each collected the first of their hits in the first inning as Brett Bonar's fielder's choice would plate Denk for an early Cougar 1-0 lead.

The first frame didn't fare as well for Cougars' starting hurler Andrew Repp as the Beavers' took the lead in the home half before recording an out. A full-count walk followed by a single and another walk loaded the bases with a hit batsman pushing across the tying run. An infield error plated another Beaver with a one-out walk pushing the lead out to 3-1 before Repp was able to induce an infield pop-up and strike out the final batter to leave the sacks full.

Repp returned to the mound just seven pitches later as the Cougars went down in order in the top half with consecutive Pratt singles to open the home half ended the day of the Topeka sophomore.

The call to the pen much earlier than possibly expected didn't seem to phase Easton Smith as the Ellis freshman would control the Pratt offense as a fielder's choice would be all the Beavers could plate with an infield pop-up and ground out ending the threat.

Denk and Fowler provided Barton's response in the ensuing third inning with Denk's one out single to center being upstaged by Fowler's team leading sixth home run of the year coming on a drive to right field.

Following Smith stranding a leadoff single with consecutive outs including two of his career high six strikeouts, the Cougars went back to work compiling a four run inning getting help from the Pratt defense to take the lead for good.

Erickson's single and Pomeroy's full count walk began the fourth with an attempted back pick-off of Pomeroy at first base resulted in both Cougars rounding the bases on the errant throw. Brett Huelsmann kept the line moving in drawing a full-count walk but was erased from the bases on a Denk fielder's choice. Fowler's scorching ground ball to right field resulted in two more runs as Denk scored on a fielding error with Fowler crossing the dish on a relay error to the plate giving Barton a 7-4 lead.

Bonar opened up the fifth with his second hit of the nightcap then later swiped second base for the Rose Hill sophomore's first collegiate stolen base. Three pitches later, Erickson converted a 2-2 pitch to a line drive RBI to center field pushing the advantage out to four.

Smith's lone blemish on his career high five innings of work came in the home half of the fifth as two singles in the inning and a fielding error allowed one run to cross the plate. The unfazed Smith then induced a pop-up and full-count strikeout to strand a runner at second.

Barton got the one run back after a scoreless sixth inning with Pomeroy's one out single, advancing a base on a wild pitch, would score on Chandler Kelley's two-out RBI single.

The Cougars went long ball in the eighth to put the game away as Denk's leadoff walk would trot around the bases as Fowler launched the first pitch over the center field fence for his second of the game. An out and a Bonar walk later prompting a call to the bullpen, Brady Michel greeted the new Pratt pitcher Quentin Kopjar's 2-0 pitch with a blast to left field for the Great Bend sophomore's fifth home run of the season for a 13-6 lead.

Casey Wulfkuhle took over on the mound back in the seventh with a ninth inning leadoff 3-2 pitch home run being the only blemish in a solid three inning and two strikeout performance.