Cowley College Scores Three Runs in the 6th, Hands Cloud County Baseball a 3-1 Postseason Loss
A low-scoring and tightly contested game would once again be the undoing of the Cloud County Community College baseball team as the T-Birds would strand 10 base runners and be unable to overcome a three-run sixth inning against Cowley Community College to fall by a score of 3-1 in the opening round of the 2023 Plains District Baseball Tournament at Eck Stadium in Wichita, Kansas on Wednesday, May 17th.
Falling to the Tigers after defeating Cowley 8-7 earlier in the season, Cloud County is now 37-22 overall while Cowley advances to tomorrow's winner's bracket game against top-seeded Barton Community College with a 36-20 overall record.
Chances from the opening inning of the game would be seen by both teams as the T-Birds would get a one-out single from Gavin Roy and two-out hit-by-pitch from Anthony Taggart before a successful double steal to move both runners into scoring position and be stranded as a strikeout would get Cowley out of an early jam. Cloud County would return the favor in the bottom of the first as a one-out walk and two-out hit batter would be followed by a base-hit into right field before seeing the arm of sophomore Kolden Howerton deliver a perfect throw to Karson Green at the plate to cut down a would-be go-ahead run for Cowley to keep things scoreless.
The Tigers would strand two more runners in the bottom of the second after a one-out walk and single into center field would lead to nothing with a strikeout and groundout ending the threat before seeing perfect third innings from both defenses to keep things at 0-0. Cloud County would put a base runner aboard with one out in the fourth before having an inning-ending double play give Cowley momentum in a game still looking for its first run, but once again be held scoreless as the T-Birds would work around a leadoff base runner reaching on a wild pitch on a third strike and one-out hit batter with a strikeout and flyout keeping CCC off the scoreboard.
Cloud County would look to make some noise offensively again in the fifth as a leadoff base hit by Alex Diaz and a two-out walk drawn by Green would put a runner in scoring position but a lineout on a ball that would hang up just enough for Cowley right fielder Cooper Schwindt to make the catch and keep things tied. With the pitch count of starting pitcher Mason McConnaughey beginning to rise, the T-Birds would see the Topeka, Kansas native allow a leadoff walk and single to put two runners on for Cowley before a flyout that would advance the lead runner and have runners on the corners with just one out. McConnaughey would make sure that things would stay tied through the rest of the inning by inducing a popup in foul territory that would be caught by Roy before a lineout into right field as the Tigers would strand two base runners for the third time in five innings.
A quick one-two-three top of the sixth would again give Cowley some momentum heading into the bottom of the inning as Cloud County would make a call to the bullpen and bring in Brady Stuewe with the game looking more and more to be the first team to score putting themselves in prime position to get a win. Hitting the first batter of his outing before giving up a walk, Stuewe would see the next batter for Cowley lay down a sacrifice bunt to first base that would be fielded with a throw being made to try and get the lead runner at third that would be off the mark and allow all three base runners to take an extra 90 feet with a run coming home to score. With the game now 1-0 in favor of the Tigers, Cowley would hit an infield popup before drawing back-to-back walks to bring home another run and end Stuewe's day on the mound with a second call to the bullpen being made to bring in Cayden Castellanos. A walk to Ty Hammack to keep the inning going and bring home a third run would see Cowley with all the momentum until a strikeout and flyout to end the inning as the damage was done with three Tiger runs scoring on no hits.
Needing a spark on offense, Diaz would reach base for a second time with a walk before seeing Cloud County opt for pinch-hitter Landon Meyer who would deliver with a ball into the left-center field gap that would lead to an RBI stand-up double as the T-Birds would find their way onto the scoreboard and be right back into the ball game. A strikeout by Howerton would put a second out on the board before seeing Green draw a walk to put the game-tying run on base that would end the day of Cowley starter Chance Cox after 106 pitches to exit while being in line to pick up his seventh win of the year. A walk issued to Paul Schuyler would extend the inning for CCCC and load the bases for Roy, but a groundout to second base would end the inning as the throw would be a step ahead of the Sudbury, Ontario native's run down the line to try and beat the throw.
Getting a clean one-two-three inning in the bottom of the seventh, Cloud County would have another opportunity in the top of the eighth to try and cut into the Cowley lead as a leadoff single for Danny Infante and one-out hit-by-pitch for pinch-hitter Eric Foufoulas would put the game-tying run aboard before seeing Diaz move both runners up 90 feet on a groundout to the right side of the infield. With Meyer stepping up the plate and looking to re-create some magic that was found in his last at-bat, a groundout on a slow roller to third base would end the inning for the T-Birds with two more stranded base runners proving to loom large with another opportunity gone by the wayside.
After allowing a leadoff single to nine-hole hitter Haden O'Toole, Castellanos would settle back in to get a sacrifice bunt groundout and strikeout to get two outs on the board with a runner at second for Cowley with Hammack due up as the T-Birds would intentionally walk the sophomore to avoid pitching to a player hitting .394 on the year. Following a balk that would move both runners into scoring position, the move to issue a free pass to Hammack would prove to pay off as Castellanos would get a groundout to end the inning and keep the deficit at just two for Cloud County as things would go to the ninth with the score still a 3-1 Cowley advantage.
Down to their final three outs offensively, a groundout by Howerton would quickly take an opportunity away from Cloud County before seeing Green come through with a double into the left-center field gap that would look very similar to Meyer's RBI double in the seventh. With the lineup flipped over to the top of the order and Schuyler, Cowley would elect to keep with their reliever Jack Hill as the Edmond, Oklahoma native would get a strikeout and groundout to end the game and allow the Tigers to avenge a loss earlier in the year to Cloud County.
Six of Cloud County's 10 stranded base runners would come in the seventh inning or later as CCCC would be limited to just five hits in the game coming from five different players. Not much offensively would be found on the other side from Cowley as the Tigers would be limited to four hits and strand 12 base runners with all four hits coming as singles with eight walks and the lone error of the game by the T-Birds leading to the offensive support for CCC.
A no-decision for McConnaughey would come after 88 pitches along with five strikeouts before seeing Stuewe fall to 1-2 after allowing three runs (two earned) on three walks and a hit batter while Castellanos would throw the final 2.2 innings and allow one hit while striking out three.
Cloud County will put their 2023 season on the line in a 1 PM elimination game on Thursday afternoon when the T-Birds take on Kansas City Kansas Community College at Eck Stadium. The Blue Devils dropped a 14-5 decision to Barton Community College in seven innings on Thursday afternoon to fall to the elimination bracket and are 37-22 on the year. The last meeting between CCCC and KCKCC came in last season's NJCAA Plains District Tournament with the Blue Devils earning a 5-1 victory in the first game of the 2022 tournament.