T-Birds split Friday doubleheader, finish 2-1 on Oklahoma trip

Cloud County sophomore third baseman Blake Manuel finished 4-for-8 at the plate during Friday's doubleheader
Cloud County sophomore third baseman Blake Manuel finished 4-for-8 at the plate during Friday's doubleheader

EDMOND, Oklahoma — The Cloud County Community College baseball team wrapped up its two-day trip to Edmond, Oklahoma on Friday, splitting a doubleheader against Eastern Oklahoma State College and Redlands Community College at Wendell Simmons Field located on the University of Central Oklahoma campus.

Cloud County (3-2 overall) dropped the first game of the afternoon, 12-8, to Eastern Oklahoma Mountaineers (2-5 overall) but rebounded for a 4-1 win over the Redland Cougars (2-2 overall) to finish 2-1 overall on the trip to Oklahoma.

"It's been really good at times and really ugly at times. We obviously still have a lot to work on, but it's been good to get out and play against good competition," said Cloud County head coach Eric Gilliland. "We've been able to kind of see what we have. We'll come home, reassess, regroup and hopefully get back on it next week."

Early on Friday it appeared the T-Birds might be in line for a sweep as they jumped out to a first-inning lead over the Mountaineers, manufacturing four runs in the opening frame in less than ideal hitting conditions as temperatures dipped down around freezing.

Freshman infielders Davis Pratt and Griffin Larsen produced a RBI hit-by-pitch and RBI single in succession before sophomore Jackson Dietel delivered a two-run single to cap the four-run first inning.

Unfortunately for the T-Birds, they were unable to sustain the early success against Eastern Oklahoma starter Koty Frank.

"We came out with a lot of energy, but then let their starter settle in and he did a really nice job the rest of the way through seven innings," Gilliland said.

Cloud County starter, freshman right-hander Josh Laukkanen, shined in his collegiate debut, striking out 13 hitters with no walks in his six innings of work while limiting EOSC to four earned runs on seven hits.

"He's a strike thrower. On a day where it was cold and the wind blew in, he pounded the zone with three pitches," Gilliland said of Laukkanen. "That's what he does really well to both sides of the plate and he has a good fastball to go with it."

After slowing working their way back into the game, the Mountaineers went on top for good with a six-run ninth inning, four of which came with two outs to take the 12-8 victory.

Cloud County responded well in the final matchup of its two-game set, though, as a trio of T-Bird pitchers limited Redlands to one run on two hits over eight innings in their 4-1 victory.

Freshman right-hander Bradan Pierce got the start and completed two innings, allowing one run on one hit while striking out five.

Fellow freshman Carson Marsh then took the baton and tossed five scoreless innings in relief to pick up his first career win. Marsh struck out eight and allowed one hit.

"We kind of expected Game Two to be a complete staff game. We knew Bradan was only going to be able to give us two innings, but Carson Marsh settled in and gave us an awesome five innings. It made it hard to take him out," Gilliland said. "He's a quality left-hander who can throw three pitches for a strike and he threw a ton of strikes (Friday)."

Down to their last three outs, the T-Birds' offense was able to break through in the top of the seventh when freshman outfielder Clayton Loranger produced a out-out sacrifice fly to score pinch runner Alex Rice from third.

In extras, it was then Rice would deliver the big swing with a go-ahead, two-run double down the line. He'd come around to score to make it 4-1 one batter later when sophomore Cooper Schlochtermeier singled.

Cloud County would finish with 10 hits in Game Two, led by two-hit performances from Schlochtermeier (2-for-3), sophomore first baseman Kade Wallace (2-for-4) and sophomore third baseman Blake Manuel, who was a combined 4-for-8 on the afternoon.

Sophomore relief pitcher Corben Peters handled the duties in the bottom of the eighth inning, pitching a 1-2-3 frame to earn his first career save.

The T-Birds will have the weekend off before they head back to Oklahoma next week for a pair of games against Northwestern Oklahoma State JV. Those games are currently scheduled for 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Tuesday but could possibly be pushed back in the week due to weather concerns.

Cloud County has postponed Monday's would-be home opening doubleheader against Kansas Wesleyan JV. No make-up date has been set.