CONCORDIA, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College baseball team had a tough start to its four-game set against Garden City Community College, falling by the final scores of 6-0 and 2-1 on Thursday.
A mix of misfortune and not playing up to their standard has the T-Birds (27-20 overall, 14-12 KJCCC) in a five-game funk dating back to last Saturday's series finale against Dodge City.
"It just seemed like nothing went our way (Thursday). Some of it was self-inflicted, some of it was bad breaks. We just couldn't get the big hit when we needed do, while (Garden City) made big pitches when they needed to," said Cloud County head coach, Eric Gilliland. "It's been of one of those 'When it rains, it pours' situations. It hasn't been a good week of baseball for us. We haven't played well and we haven't gotten a lot of breaks to go with it. Luckily, we still have baseball ahead of us and we still have time to play our best baseball here at the end."
The T-Birds nearly picked off a win in Game Two, tying the game in the bottom of the eighth inning when sophomore first baseman Jackson Dietel singled through the left-side to score freshman Connor Laux.
Laux singled to lead off the eighth and moved to second on a wild pitch before Dietel was able to knock him in with a clutch two-out hit that gave him his 29th run batted in of the season, snapping the scoring drought.
"Dietel has been the guy all year who hasn't been afraid of that moment and he put a good swing on the ball in the spot," Gilliland said.
Unfortunately for the T-Birds, an error in the top of the ninth inning opened the door for the Broncbusters (26-19 overall, 12-14 KJCCC) to plate a go-ahead unearned run that proved to be the difference.
Garden City's first run of the game came in the top of the second inning, courtesy of a balk call with two outs and a runner at third.
It was the lone blemish on the pitching line of freshman Joseph Karall as the righty went six strong innings in the no-decision, holding Garden City to the one run on four hits while striking out five.
"Joe pitched very well and has for a few weeks now," Gilliland said. "He throws a ton of strikes and made a bunch of big pitches when he had to, as well. He worked out of some jams and kept us in it."
As for Game One, the T-Birds were able to produce traffic, but were unable to push anyone across as they left 13 men on base in the 6-0 loss to the Broncbusters.
"I thought we hit a lot of balls hard, quite a few of them hit on the screws, but they were at people or got held up with the wind blowing in. Garden City also made really big pitches when they needed to," Gilliland said. "I thought our at-bats in Game One were fine. The timeliness our hits just hasn't been good the last couple of weeks."
Garden City scored all six of its runs between two innings, with two coming in the first inning and four in the fourth.
Cloud County sophomore Austen Seidel, who missed the previous two series, got the start in Game One. The right-hander showed a little rust from the time off as he went four innings and allowed nine hits, but struck out three versus one walk.
"Austen wasn't very sharp today. But if we can get him back in the fold and back to where he was about a month ago, he'll be big for us," Gilliland said of Seidel, who entered the day with a 2.88 earned run average and a team-best 12.84 strikeouts per nine innings.
While Thursday's losses were tough to stomach for Cloud County, Gilliland said he is confident the T-Birds can get back on track as they continue to battle for a top-4 finish inside a crowded and crazy KJCCC West.
"We've been through a lot this year with all the road games early and the injuries. Every team faces adversity during the season and we've faced a lot of it," Gilliland said. "I told the guys 'We've come too far to fold the tent at this point. It's time to get off the ropes and start fighting and play our best baseball down the stretch.'"
The series between the T-Birds and Broncbusters resumes at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday in Garden City.