The Barton Community College baseball team got one of the needed games against Hutchinson Community College Sunday at Hutchinson's Hobart-Detter Field, scoring a come-from-behind 6-4 victory before dropping the back end of the doubleheader 9-3.
Going 1-3 against the Blue Dragons over the weekend, the teams sit at 5-3 in third place of the early conference season with Barton now at 13-6 on the year while Hutchinson improved to 14-8.
Barton will step out of conference play for a Tuesday 1:00 p.m. nine inning contest hosting the junior varsity squad from Tabor College before turning attention to the next league matchup-up against Pratt Community College. The teams will open the four-game set on Thursday at Lawson-Biggs Field with Saturday's action shifting to Pratt. 1:00 p.m. doubleheaders slated for both dates.
The Cougars' victory in game one had two storylines develop as the Cougars trailed by two after the first inning and the pitching performance of Joe Richter.
Barton's early aggression after being swept two days prior on the home turf produced two first inning runs as Andrew Stewart's executed bunt plated Noah Geekie for the Cougars' first run with Tyler Bandiera driving Nolan Riley for the second on a single.
The Blue Dragons struck back in their home half, stringing consecutive singles before getting a sacrifice fly and RBI single to it up. Three pitches later and Hutchinson grabbed the lead on 2-0 pitch Zach Baxley home run. The Dragons kept the heat on starter Jake Skala with a couple more singles as Barton had to go to the bullpen bringing in Richter.
Inheriting a pair of runners with two-outs, Richter got the Cougars out of the inning and silenced the bats the rest of the way awaiting for the Barton sticks to heat up.
The Barton offense never really got untracked but Brett Erickson and Geekie gave the Cougars a good start in leading off the fifth with singles. The Dragon defense helped get the game tied with Riley reaching on an error allowing Erickson to score before Stewart put the pressure on the defense laying down another great bunt causing a wild throw to plate both Geekie and Riley for the go-ahead run. An out later, Bandiera delivered an insurance run on a sac fly.
Richter scattered just three hits in his 6.1 innings of relief, striking out five while walking just one. Sending the Dragons down in order his second inning on the hill, Richter's lone walk was erased on a double play to end the inning. The freshman sent Hutchinson down in order again in the fourth, stranded a two-out double in the fifth and solo hits in the sixth and seventh, to improve to 2-0 on the season giving the Cougars a huge lift out of the bullpen.
Following a three-up three-down to begin the nightcap for both teams, the Cougars squandered one of many chances in the game to plate runs beginning with the second inning's wasting of a Stewart leadoff double and Bandiera one-out walk.
Hutchinson would again force Barton to go to its bullpen early by not wasting its chances, stringing a trio of hits to begin the home half producing the go-ahead run. Another pair of one-out singles drove in three more runs and following a hit batsman, starter Jacob Ensz' day was done sending the sophomore to 0-2 on the early season.
Inheriting a pair of runs, Casey Wulfkuhle got the Cougars out of the inning but ran into his own problems in the third as a hit-by-pitch and single began the frame. Diving for a liner in left field, Trenton Ferguson came up empty on the catch allowing one run to score but hustled to the fence, threw in to Erickson on the cut who fired a strike to catcher Noah Rheinheimer in cutting down the second run. Getting a strikeout for the second out, Wulfkuhle gave up an RBI single before Cade Peters was called in to close out the inning.
As was the case for most of the afternoon, Barton threatened numerous times but was either robbed of a hit by some solid Dragon defense, couldn't come up with the big hit to spark a big inning, or when started to seize momentum Hutchinson would answer in the home half.
Case be told in the third as Stewart and Erickson collected hits but the Cougars managed just a fielder's choice to score a run. The bottom half of the inning, as Peters sent the first two batters down in order, Zane Schmidt halted the momentum blasting a 0-2 pitch out of the park to answer the Cougars' run.
Barton threatened with another big opportunity in the sixth as Riley's leadoff double was followed by Stewart's third hit of the game to put runners at the corners. Bandiera singled to right field one-out later but was gunned out stretching it into a double with a strikeout ending the inning.
Hutchinson answered plus one at their at-bat, getting a leadoff double across the dish on a one-out RBI double. Intentionally walking the next batter, a hit by pitch would load the bases with a fielder's choice putting another run on the home side of the scoreboard.
The Cougars' final run came in the eighth as Geekie blasted a deep fly off the center field wall for a triple, scoring three pitches later on Riley's sac fly.
Singles by Jeb Sauer and Rheinheimer came up empty in ninth as the Cougars were struck out three of their eleven times in the game.
Stewart collected four of Barton's fifteen hits on the day with two doubles as Bandiera led the squad with four RBIs. Erickson went 2-of-4 out of the top spot in the opener, finishing the doubleheader with three hits.
Joining Richter on the bright side of the pitching highlights, Alex Manderino worked a perfect two innings including striking out the side in the seventh before sending the Dragons down in order in the eighth.