EL DORADO, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College baseball program preaches unselfishness in the batter's box and the value of every 90 feet, whether a ball is put in play or not.
On Thursday, in Game Four of the T-Birds series against Butler Community College, that philosophy was on full display as Cloud County rallied for four runs in the eighth inning, aided by four hit-by-pitches and a walk in the inning, to steal a 4-3 victory and earn a series split.
In total, the T-Birds (20-13 overall, 9-7 KJCCC) drew six walks and were plunked seven times in Game Two, fueling a comeback in a game where Cloud County finished with one hit; a one-out double by sophomore Kade Wallace back in the second inning.
"It was certainly one of the most obscure games I've ever been a part of," said Cloud County head coach, Eric Gilliland. "But as a program, we embrace the selflessness of hit-by-pitches. This is a true scenario where it actually won us a ballgame. I'd say there was a little luck involved, but our team embraces getting to first base any way possible. If we jump out of the way of those balls, we lose that game. We won that game because we were willing to let a fastball hit us."
Vinchochea scored Cloud County's first run on a wild pitch. Two batters later, sophomore Cooper Schlochtermeier chopped a ball in-between the pitcher's mound and first base. Butler's pitcher Bennett Scherer rushed his throw home to the plate and it sailed to the back stop, allowing Dietel and Schmidt to each scamper home to tie the game at 3-3.
The T-Birds then took the lead for good when freshman shortstop Connor Laux drew a two-out walk that scored Wallace to tie a bow on the wild eighth inning.
Cloud County's bullpen finished the job from there as sophomore Jack Theilen worked three quality innings in relief to earn the win, allowing just one run on two hits and a strikeout of Butler's Jack Macki to end the home-half of the eighth.
Fellow sophomore Corben Peters then slammed the door in the ninth as, after issuing a leadoff walk, Peters retired the next three Grizzlies to pick up his team-leading third save of the season.
"The effort we got from our bullpen in Game Four is not something you get often in Game Four because those games usually get wild," Gilliland said. "'JT' and Corben came in and those are two sophomores who have been in those situations before. They made big pitches and it was the difference in the game."
Freshman right-hander Tylor Jans picked up a no-decision on the afternoon, but was a key piece to keeping the T-Birds within striking distance as he went five innings, limiting Butler to two runs on five hits while striking out eight.
"Jans had great stuff and made big, big pitches to get out of some jams," Gilliland said. "That's been a point of emphasis with him is finding a way to get out of jams. He needs to be a little more efficient, but I thought it was his best outing to date."
The win in Game Four helped alleviate some of the frustration of Game Three, where the T-Birds fell by an 8-4 final.
Schmidt powered out his third home run of the series in the top-half of the seventh, a three-run shot and his team-leading ninth long ball of the season, and Dietel was 2-for-3 with a walk to lead the Cloud County offense.
"Offensively, it was a struggle all day long and we've got to get better swinging the bats and get guys going again," Gilliland said. "We're not swinging the bats right now like we're capable of doing and we'll have to get back to work on that next week."
On the mound, Dietel suffered his first loss of the season to make the left-hander 4-1 through his first six starts this season.
Dietel went 5.1 innings, allowed six runs, only four earned, on eight hits while striking out six.
"I thought it was the second straight outing where Dietel's stuff was better than his final line ended up," Gilliland said. "He had pretty good stuff and made a lot of big pitches, but Butler made its hits count. We had plays we could have made that could have cut down some of those runs."
Cloud County, currently sitting in fourth place in the KJCCC West standings with four series remaining, will have the weekend off before it heads back out on the road Tuesday for a single, nine-inning game against non-conference foe, Hesston College. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.