T-Birds suffer first KJCCC West series loss after dropping Sunday's doubleheader against Colby

Cloud County sophomore Grant Schmidt hit three home runs and drove in eight during Sunday's doubleheader against Colby
Cloud County sophomore Grant Schmidt hit three home runs and drove in eight during Sunday's doubleheader against Colby

COLBY, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College baseball team encountered its first speed bump inside Jayhawk Conference play on Sunday, losing both games of its doubleheader, 12-7 and 11-10, in uncharacteristic and heartbreaking fashion.

Cloud County (16-9 overall, 7-5 KJCCC) split the first doubleheader between the two teams on Friday, but fell victim to some poor execution on the mound and out in the field in Sunday's losses to Colby (16-9, 4-4 KJCCC) as they committed seven errors on the day and allowed nine home runs.

"The first six weeks of the season we pitched really well and played really good defense. This series was the complete opposite of that," said Cloud County head coach, Eric Gilliland. "The wind was blowing out to right (Sunday), but I don't think there's any excuse in giving up nine home runs in a day of baseball. We just didn't execute good pitches and made mistakes in the middle of the zone."

Cloud County,which entered the series tied for second in the KJCCC in fielding percentage at .969 and fourth in team ERA (4.02), put itself in position to salvage a split with the Trojans in Game Four. The T-Birds overcame an early 5-2 deficit to pull ahead 6-5 on a three-run home run by sophomore outfielder Grant Schmidt; his second long ball of Game Four and third of the day.

Schmidt, the team leader with six home runs on the season, finished 2-for-5 with five RBI in the series finale, and 3-for-9 with the three homers and eight RBI on the afternoon.

Freshman catcher Griffin Larsen followed Schmidt's bomb in the fifth inning with a solo shot for his fourth home run of the year.

The T-Birds would extend their lead to 10-5 heading to the bottom of the eighth before Colby erupted for five runs of its own to tie the game, then capped off the comeback with a walk-off home run by Enok Perez in the ninth.

Sophomore first baseman Kade Wallace finished 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and sophomore Blake Manuel added an RBI double in Game Four, as well.

As for Game Three, the T-Birds were able to jump out to a 6-2 lead following a five-run top of the third, highlighted by a three-run shot to right-center by Schmidt.

Unfortunately for Cloud County, the Trojans answered right back with four runs of their own in the third inning, all of which were unearned due to a two-out throwing error.

Colby made the T-Birds pay for the error as two batters later Jason Evans drilled a three-run shot to tie the game at 6-6.

Cloud County briefly took the lead again in the fourth when freshman Davis Pratt, who homered in the second inning and finished 4-for-4 in Game Three, doubled to right-center to score Wallace and make it a 7-6 advantage.

The T-Birds were unable to make the seven runs stand up, though, as Colby surged ahead with three runs in the fourth, one in the fifth, and two runs in the sixth to take a 12-7 victory.

"Game Three was the worst game we've played all year, defensively," Gilliland said. "We made mistakes, we walked too many guys and just did some uncharacteristically bad things on the baseball field. You have to eliminate reasons for losing games and we did a good job of that the first half of the season, but today just wasn't pretty."

The T-Birds, after winning their first two KJCCC West series of the season against Pratt and Seward County, will look to shake off the Colby series and prepare for a week that'll feature four games against three different non-conference foes.

Cloud County gets the week started with a single, nine-inning game at 1 p.m. Tuesday on the road against Southeast Community College.

The team will then play a road doubleheader against Hastings College JV on Thursday before closing out the week with another single, nine-inning game out at Iowa Western. First pitch for that game between the Reivers and T-Birds is set for 2 p.m.

"I'd like to see us get back to pitching and playing good, solid defense to give ourselves chances to win," Gilliland said. "Everything we do feeds off that. We've been exceptional in those areas so far, so maybe it was asking a lot to sustain that level of play. But we went from one spectrum to the other this week. Next week we need to get back to taking care of the ball and making quality pitches. The most cliché stuff in the world that we kind of made look easy the first part of the year."