T-Birds win battle of the aces, earn split against No. 17 ranked Barton

Cloud County sophomore Erik Sabrowski leads all NJCAA pitchers in strikeouts (110) so far this season
Cloud County sophomore Erik Sabrowski leads all NJCAA pitchers in strikeouts (110) so far this season

GREAT BEND, Kansas — Thursday's doubleheader between the Cloud County Community College baseball team and No. 17 ranked Barton Community College pitted two of the top-three teams in the KJCCC West, and two of the conference's most dominating starting pitchers, together for an intense afternoon on the diamond.

The two conference foes played each other to a draw Thursday as Cloud County (25-19 overall, 15-11 KJCCC) took the opener 4-1, while Barton (36-10 overall, 19-7 KJCCC) held on for an 11-9 win in the nightcap.

"We put together really good at-bats all day long and played pretty well, defensively," said Cloud County head coach Eric Gilliland. "Overall, it was a really competitive day."

In Game One, with Major League Baseball scouts huddled behind home plate at Lawson-Biggs Field, Cloud County sophomore Erik Sabrowski and Barton sophomore Josh Hendrickson didn't disappoint.

Arguably the two top pitchers in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference delivered on their anticipated pitchers' duel, with Sabrowski, now a four-time KJCCC DI Pitcher of the Week, getting the better of Hendrickson to help Cloud County to a 4-1 win over the nationally ranked Cougars.

Sabrowski improved to 7-1 on the season and remained undefeated against KJCCC West foes after going all seven innings, allowing just one run on three hits with 13 strikeouts. He currently leads all NJCAA players in strikeouts with 110 on the season.

"That was about as good of a junior college baseball game as you're going to find," said Gilliland of what was the KJCCC Broadcast of the Week. "It was pretty big stakes, lot of scouts there, and two really good pitchers going at it. Hendrickson is very good, but we were able to get timely hits, and Sabrowski was as good as he's ever been."

Hendrickson (8-2), a fellow southpaw who also went the distance in Game One, matched Sabrowski pitch for pitch through the first three innings until the T-Birds broke through in the fourth.

Sophomore shortstop Aidan Huggins highlighted his 3-for-3 performance with a two-out, two-run double that scored sophomores Tucker Catlett and Ryan Krolikowski.

"Aidan has sometimes been inconsistent at the plate, but he's shown he's very skilled and capable," Gilliland said. "Good players show up when there are high stakes and he was really good for us (Thursday)."

Barton got a run back in the sixth on a RBI single, but Cloud County responded with two insurance runs in the top of the seven inning on a RBI single from sophomore Matt Bondarchuk and a sac fly by Sabrowski.

Bondarchuk finish 3-for-4 at the plate in Game One, polishing off an impressive series opener from Cloud County's Canadian trio of Bondarchuk, Huggins and Sabrowski.

As for Game Two, it was the polar opposite of Game One as each team went to its bullpens early and the offenses duked it out, with Barton able to hold on for an 11-9 victory.

Cloud County rallied from a 5-1 deficit after one inning to take a 6-5 lead in the top of the second, courtesy of three Cougar errors in the inning.

Barton tied the game in the home-half of the second, then took the lead back with two runs in the fourth and two in the fifth.

In the seventh, with the Cougars lead up to 11-7, Cloud County made things interesting again with an RBI triple by Bondarchuk, who then scampered home on another Barton error to make it an 11-9 game.

Unfortunately, the T-Birds comeback stopped there as Barton limited Cloud County to one base runner over the final two frames.

Krolikowski led all Cloud County players with a 2-for-5 effort and an RBI in Game Two.

The two teams will resume the series at 1 p.m. Friday at Lee Doyen Field in Concordia.

Between games on Friday, Cloud County Community College will honor Jim Dunning and Zach Hamel for their vital contributions toward the construction of the new on-campus, indoor training facility.

The two Cloud County alumnus will throw out the ceremonial first pitches before Game Two at approximately 3 p.m. Cloud County will then host an Open House and Dedication ceremony at 5 p.m. to publicly debut the Dunning-Hamel Baseball Training Facility.

"We try to kind of stay in the moment as much as possible. But when I pull back and look at what all is going on here (Friday), it really is hard to believe and it's humbling," Gilliland said. "We're extremely grateful to the two men (Dunning and Hamel) who helped make it happen. We have two big Jayhawk Conference games with playoff implications, and we're still fighting for a first-round home playoff series. But it's going to be a pretty special day and we're excited for everything that'll be going on."