CONCORDIA, Kansas — A chilly March afternoon in Concordia was the setting Thursday for arguably the greatest seven-inning game pitched in Cloud County Community College baseball history.
Cloud County sophomore Erik Sabrowski, dotting fastballs and snapping off devastating sliders, rang up a school record 18 strikeouts of the 21 outs recorded in Game One's 3-0 victory over Hutchinson Community College, helping the T-Birds earn a doubleheader split to begin a four-game series against the Blue Dragons.
"That's called firing on all cylinders. He had all four of his pitches working for strikes, had pretty good velocity and location. And on top of that, he is just a great competitor," said Cloud County head coach, Eric Gilliland of Sabrowski. "It was one of the best, if not the best, performances I've seen on the mound at this level."
Sabrowski's 18 strikeouts topped the previous school record of 15 by Tom Johnsen in 1990, and the win moved him to 3-1 on the young season. The big left-hander was dominant from first-pitch as he struck out the first seven batters he faced before Hutchinson (8-8 overall, 2-4 KJCCC), a team preseason ranked No. 7 in the country, ended the streak with a one-out double in the third inning.
That would be the closest thing to a jam Sabrowski would see all afternoon as he limited Hutchinson to three total base runners (two hits, one walk) while throwing 75 of his 106 pitches for strikes.
"He kind of made a little adjustment on what types of pitches (Sabrowski) has been throwing and the sequences," Gilliland said. "I thought (Thursday) was probably the perfect mixture of all of his pitches. He probably had better stuff in his last start against Garden City when he struck out 10, but today he mixed in his off-speed just enough to keep Hutchinson off-balanced. It was great pitch selection and pitch execution."
Cloud County (7-9 overall, 2-4 KJCCC) gave Sabrowski an early lead to work with, capitalizing of four Hutchinson errors in Game One, including three in the first inning.
Sophomore third baseman Tauren Langley drove in the game's first run with a one-out single in the bottom of the first. The ball then skipped past the Blue Dragons' left fielder, allowing a second run to score.
The T-Birds added a third insurance run in the second inning when redshirt sophomore Luis Landaeta scored from third on an errant pick-off throw by Hutchinson's pitcher, Mason Palmier.
In Game Two, Hutchinson punched back as the Blue Dragons jumped out to a 7-1 lead through the game's first four innings.
Cloud County made a game of it with a four-run sixth inning, capitalizing on two more Hutchinson's errors to get back within two at 7-5.
The T-Birds' fourth run came on an RBI groundout by Gonzalez, who finished 1-for-5 with 2 RBI in the nightcap.
Unfortunately for Cloud County, the Blue Dragons were able to respond with a run in the seven inning and another insurance run in the ninth to hold on for the 9-6 final.
It was a bittersweet split for the T-Birds, who were outhit 10-6 in Game Two and failed to completely make the Blue Dragons pay for their nine defensive errors on the day.
"What we've told the guys is we need to take the next step and not just be happy winning one or two games each series and understand we have a team that can win a series against Hutchinson or Garden City," Gilliland said. "When a team makes nine errors, we have to capitalize on that and win a doubleheader. So, we weren't satisfied with how we played (Thursday), but we did continue to take care of the baseball well and that'll give us chances to win games if we continue to get good starting pitching."
Cloud County and Hutchinson resume the four-game series at 2 p.m. Friday in Hutchinson.