PRATT, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College baseball team picked off a pair of crucial road wins Thursday to begin a four-game set against Pratt Community College.
For the T-Birds (9-12 overall, 4-6 KJCCC), who won by the final scores of 6-1 and 8-6, respectively, the victories snapped a three-game losing skid they had coming into the day and put them in prime position to win their first conference series of the season when the two teams resume play at 1 p.m. Saturday in Concordia.
"The message for quite awhile has been 'Close doesn't get us anywhere. We have to start winning close games' and it was a huge point of emphasis for us (Thursday)," said Cloud County head coach, Eric Gilliland. "It was great to be able to win one of those close games and put together a complete day. I felt we did that in all phases."
Cloud County cruised to a 6-1 victory in Game One of the series behind a 4-for-4 day at the plate by sophomore first baseman Ryan Krolikowski and another strong start on the mound by sophomore Erik Sabrowski.
The four hits were a career-high in a game for Krolikowski, who was 7-for-9 on the day as a whole with 4 RBI.
"(Krolikowski) was really dialed in. The wind was blowing straight in about 30 miles per hour, but his swing stayed hard and flat with a good approach all day," Gilliland said.
Cloud County's offense ignited for five runs in the top of the third inning in Game One to get the game's scoring underway.
The T-Birds added an insurance run in the top of the seventh on a RBI single by Krolikowski to cap his spotless 4-for-4 performance in the opener.
On the mound, Sabrowski (4-1) picked up his third straight win with his third straight complete-game performance. The reigning KJCCC DI Pitcher of the Week limited Pratt to one run on six hits while striking out seven.
The day got sweeter for the T-Birds in Game Two as they rallied from an early 3-0 deficit, and a 5-3 deficit through six innings, to earn an 8-6 victory to complete the sweep.
Krolikowski was 3-for-5 with 3 RBI in the nightcap, highlighting a strong performance from the top of the T-Birds lineup.
"Simons and Bondarchuk for two years here have done a nice job of getting on base. But against Hutchinson (last Saturday), the middle of our order went 3-for-35," Gilliland said. "We won't win if the guy who are suppose to drive in runs aren't driving people in, but we were able to do that (Thursday). We drove in guys at big times today."
The T-Birds took the lead for good with a four-run seventh inning, three of which came across courtesy of two errors in the inning by Pratt.
Cloud upped its lead to 8-6 with a RBI sac fly from Sabrowski in the eighth inning before sophomore left-hander Daniel Bachura slammed the door on Pratt with two scoreless innings of relief to pick up his first career save.
Bachura, and fellow relievers Koby Spicer and Jacob Uhing, combined to limit Pratt to one run over the final 3 1/3 innings. The ability to pick each other up and pass the baton was what Gilliland said was key to the T-Birds taking two games off the Beavers on Thursday.
"It was a complete team win in Game Two. Koby came in and got out of a jam. Jacob came in and got Koby out of a jam, and then Daniel came in and got Koby out of a jam to finish the game and pitched very well," Gilliland said. "We had some guys in there who haven't been in a lot. Ed Scott got a big hit and Enrique Gonzalez took a hit-by-pitch off the same foot he fouled one off of against Hutchinson. There were a lot of really good, unselfish plays that led to runs and that's how you win close games."
Cloud County and Pratt will resume the series at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Lee Doyen Field in Concordia.