Dodge City had trouble finding their offense until the second game.
After sweeping the doubleheader on Friday, the Dodge City Community College baseball team split their final two games against Pratt on Saturday 3-7 and 16-5.
The split puts the Conquistadors record at 28-14-1 and 15-9 in KJCCC play and keeps Dodge City two games out of second place in the West Division with just two league series left in the season.
“You’d like to have all four in a weekend series like this but I’m happy the way we competed and bounced back,” head coach Phil Stephenson said. “Now we’re going to have a few days off and try to get ready for Seward because they’re playing a little bit better than they have been.”
Things went wrong for the Conquistadors three innings into game one after starter Joe Buckendorff (3-4) gave up seven runs (six of them earned) on four hits and two walks to put Dodge City in a 7-1 hole without an out on the board.
“You’ve got to find a way when those things happen as a pitcher to get out and Joe couldn’t do it and kept throwing balls,” Stephenson said. “Those are things you can’t do in this league and people will find a way to beat you in this league in one inning and that’s all it took.”
For Pratt, starter Hayden Wheeler (2-2) was on it for most of his start, going five innings and giving up three runs on seven hits, two of them coming in the fifth inning before reliever Jacob Compton came in and threw two perfect innings.
“(Wheeler) was pretty good in game one for five innings,” Stephenson said. “He kept finding a way to keep us off balance and the guy they brought in (Compton) was deceptive and didn’t give up anything.”
After Buckendorff was chased, reliever J.T. Mossberg made a strong appearance, finishing up the game's final five innings giving up only one hit.
“Mossberg pitched well and gave us a chance,” Stephenson said. “But we could never put anything together offensively.”
In game two the Conquistador offense seemed to wake up as they equaled the run total from game one in just the first two innings.
Starter Cole Brandon (5-2) grabbed his fifth win of the season and eighth of his career giving up five runs (only three earned) on nine hits while striking out six.
“Cole really wasn’t very sharp,” Stephenson said. “He pitched without his best stuff I thought, but he battled and kept it down and found a way to get outs.”
Brandon’s career eight wins are good for 10th all-time in DC3 program history.
The Conquistadors broke the game open in the third, scoring four runs on just two hits with two outs on the board. Pratt loaded the bases with walks and back-to-back singles from shortstop Cole Bergdall and left fielder Cade Engle ballooned the lead to 7-1.
The Beavers continued to fight cutting the lead to five going into the bottom of the sixth but a three-run homer from centerfielder Jon Coss following a run scored on a sac-fly helped end any notion of a Pratt comeback.
The home run was the first of the season for Coss who has struggled to get playing time thanks to injuries
“Jon has gotten chances sporadically due to injuries and this weekend (Fullerton) was not able to play in the outfield due to an ankle problem and Jon got a chance to play in all four game,” Stephenson said. “I was happy for him and he finally squared up a ball. He works hard and does everything you ask him to do.”
With no outs in the top of the seventh with two on, first baseman Talon Schaller belted a three-run home run, his 13th homer of the season, taking Dodge City’s lead to 11, triggering the run-rule and ending the game.
Schaller is just two home runs shy of being the DC3 single season record set by James Bennett in 2004.
The Conquistadors don’t have a midweek game to contend with this week so they’ll hit the diamond again this weekend when they travel to take on Seward County.