T-Birds stave off Lakers in a wild 16-14 win to conclude three-game series

Sophomore Jacob Grady (No. 4) rounds third base during a game against MCC-Longview
Sophomore Jacob Grady (No. 4) rounds third base during a game against MCC-Longview

CONCORDIA, Kansas —  The Cloud County Community College baseball team tallied its 20th win of the season on Saturday, outlasting Metropolitan Community College-Longview in a 16-14 slugfest to conclude a three-game set.

After dropping the first two games of the series on Friday, 7-6 in nine innings and 7-0; Saturday's gritty win was a welcomed sight for the T-Birds (20-25 overall, 7-17 KJCCC West).

"We've been in a lot of close games this year and hadn't found a way to win one. (Saturday) we made the plays to get it done and credit to our guys for staying the course," said Cloud County head coach, Eric Gilliland. "It's not easy to lose those emotional, tight games, so this one was good for us."

It didn't appear there'd be much drama to Saturday's series finale initially as the T-Birds vaulted in front to an 11-0 lead through two innings.

They put four on the board in the first inning thanks to a pair of two-run home runs off the bats of freshman outfielder Trae McDaniel and sophomore first baseman, Kolton Meyer. It was the second longball of the season for McDaniel, while Meyer's shot to center marked his team-leading 11th home run of the season.

Cloud's lineup, which produced 16 hits, continued its onslaught in the second inning as it hung seven runs in the frame. Sophomore slugger Jacob Grady, who finished 4-for-5 with three RBI from the No. 3 hole spot, got the scoring started with a two-run double to left field.

"Our entire lineup was great today top to bottom, but when you get that productive in the middle it absolutely helps," Gilliland said. "Baseball is a funny game. You can hit the ball hard and sometimes not control where it's going. Jacob is second on our team in hard contact percentage, but his batting average (.271) hasn't showed it. It evened out a little bit for him (Saturday)."

Meyer followed with a sac fly, sophomore infielder Jose Chacin stroked an RBI single, freshman Brett Fields drove in a run with a hit-by-pitch, and freshman leadoff man Ryan Simons capped the inning with a two-run single. Simons finished 2-for-4 with three RBI and upped his team-leading batting average to .413.

MCC-Longview came roaring back during the middle innings, primarily via the longball as it five home runs in Game Two. The Lakers would cut the deficit to one following a three-run eighth inning before the T-Birds put their foot down.

In the bottom of the eighth and two out, Grady lined a double to left field that scored Simons all the way from first base to give the T-Birds an insurance run at 16-14 and sway momentum back in their favor.

"I told our guys with two innings left that we were going to have to score again," Gilliland said. "You could feel the momentum shifting toward MCC-Longview after we had led big early. That double from Grady sent the momentum back our way."

In the ninth, after an error and intentional walk put two Lakers' runners on with one out, freshman right-hander Jacob Uhing closed the door as he snared a line-drive and fired a bullet to shortstop Tucker Catlett for a game-ending, 1-6 double play for his second save of the season.

Cloud County, now 3-2 during its current six-game stretch of non-conference games, will travel to Southeast Community College on Wednesday for its final tune-up before resuming KJCCC West play next weekend versus Butler Community College.

The T-Birds defeated the Storm, 14-11, when the two teams first played back on March 15.