Cloud County splits final day of triangular against Northeast and Neosho County

Cloud County freshman Alex Rice finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBI in Tuesday's win over Northeast
Cloud County freshman Alex Rice finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBI in Tuesday's win over Northeast

CHANUTE, Kansas — There was no sign of Bill Murray, but Tuesday's doubleheader for the Cloud County Community College baseball team to conclude its two-day triangular against Northeast Community College and Neosho Community College played out like a scene from Groundhog Day.

For the second day in a row, the T-Birds were able to upend the Northeast Hawks, winning by an 11-2 final, while the offense sputtered in a 3-1 loss to Neosho County.

"It was the exact same day of baseball, with the exception that we played a little better against Neosho than we did Monday," said Cloud County head coach, Eric Gilliland. "For whatever reason we couldn't get the same offensive performance against Neosho that we had against Northeast. Now that's largely a credit to the pitching we saw from Neosho, but it's disappointing we weren't able to get on base the last five innings of that game."

Cloud County (5-4 overall) started Tuesday's doubleheader in fine fashion, churning out 11 runs on nine hits to back a solid group effort on the mound and defensively.

The T-Birds took a 1-0 lead on a sacrifice fly from sophomore Blake Manuel in the second inning. They'd add three runs in the top of the fourth on a RBI hit-by-pitch from redshirt freshman catcher Cole Jackson, who finished with a team-high three RBI, and two runs coming across via a fielder's choice and error by the Hawks.

That'd be a common theme in Game One as Cloud County capitalized on all three errors committed by Northeast, putting the game away late with a four-run sixth inning and three runs in the top of the seventh.

Freshman outfielder Clayton Loranger was 3-for-5 with a run scored and two RBI from the leadoff spot, while sophomore first baseman Kade Wallace (2-for-4, 2 runs) and freshman Alex Rice (2-for-4, two runs and two RBI) each added multi-hit games.

"Northeast threw a left-hander who was in the upper 80's and was really good. We had a good plan of grinding him out, got him out of the game, then we were able to blow the game open after that," Gilliland said. "I thought it was about as good of a game as we've played so far this season."

On the mound, freshman right-hander Joseph Karall picked up his first collegiate win, tossing four innings of two-run baseball while notching a pair of strikeouts and not issuing a walk.

Fellow freshmen Josh Laukkanen and Billy Bechard locked down the final three innings, with Laukkanen striking out one in his two innings of work and Bechard pitching a scoreless seventh in his first appearance this season.

As for Game Two, the T-Birds were again able to grab an early lead as they went up 1-0 on a second inning RBI triple off the bat of sophomore outfielder Grant Schmidt.

Schmidt drilled a hanging changeup off the left-field fence, scoring freshman catcher Griffin Larsen and snapping a 2-for-19 cold spell to start the season.

"He's a good player and a good kid who puts a lot of pressure on himself," Gilliland said of Schmidt. "He can change us completely, offensively. When he's going, he's very good. Hopefully that will help get him going and we'll be better when he is."

The T-Birds held that 1-0 advantage to the sixth inning before Neosho County rallied for three runs, spoiling what had been a great start up to that point for freshman right-hander Tylor Jans.

Jans' finished with a final line of five-plus innings, three runs on five hits and three strikeouts before departing the game in a 1-1 tie with the bases loaded.

Freshman reliever Carson Marsh was able to minimize the damage to keep it a 3-1 game heading to the seventh, but the T-Birds were unable to rally in their last half-inning.

"Jans just ran out of steam and that's my fault for not seeing it coming. He wasn't at a high pitch count and he'd been efficient throughout the game. Hindsight is 20-20, but we probably should have gone to the bullpen a little earlier," Gilliland said. "Carson did a good job of coming into that jam and minimizing the damage, but run support for us is going to be a big deal. We had great starts (against Neosho) from Austen Seidel yesterday and Tylor was electric today. We need to be able to score 5-6 runs for those guys who worked hard to keep us in ballgames. It's disappointing to spoil those two starts, but we'll learn from it."

Cloud County will have the rest of the week off before resuming action Monday on the road for a doubleheader against Northwestern Oklahoma State University JV.

"We've seen a lot of good things so far that lead us to believe that this team can be really good. It's been a choppy start with the weather, so these days that we do get outside it is crucial we learn from our mistakes," Gilliland said. "I think what we've seen has confirmed what we thought and that is we're able to pitch at a high level and play defense at a high level. We'll have to continue to evolve our offense to find ways to manufacture and produce runs."