The McPherson College Baseball hosted the Tabor College Bluejays at Bulldog Park on Saturday. The Bulldogs and Bluejays opened the three game series with an afternoon doubleheader on a chilly Kansas day with a stiff northeast win blowing in from center field.
The Bulldogs made a statement on Saturday in what is arguably their biggest KCAC series of the season. The Bluejays entered the day in second place in the KCAC a game up on the Bulldogs who were right behind them in the standings. The Bulldogs flipped the script, sweeping the Bluejays on day one, and quite possibly getting the two biggest wins in program history to this point.
The Bulldog won the opening game of the series 7-3 behind an excellent outing on the mound from Garrett Connor. Connor pitched a complete game, something that is becoming increasingly rarer at all levels in a nine inning game, scattering eight hits, and surrendering just three runs. He had great command all game, throwing 106 pitches, over 70 of them for strikes. He finished the game with four strikeouts, and just one walk. The defense behind him was superb, dealing with the windy conditions, and the offense gave him enough run support to lead him to his fourth win of the season.
The Bulldog hitters were efficient at the plate in game one. They pushed seven runs across the plate on seven hits led by Jakob Shields, who was 2-for-3 with a double, a two-runs scored. Two of the seven Bulldog hits went for extra bases, double by Shields, and Trevor Johnson.
The Bulldogs followed up game one's performance with a 4-1 win over the Bluejays in the final game of the day. Mairion Brunken was on the hill for the Bulldogs and picked up the win. He worked the first five innings, pitching a shutout and scattering three hits. Brunken did a great job of pounding the zone, finishing the day with five strikeouts and just one free pass. With no outs and a runner on first in the sixth inning, the Bulldogs went to the bullpen and brought in Jarrod Manick. Manick had a strong first inning of work, getting out of a jam and retiring all three batters he faced in the inning. He came back out in the seventh, and things go a little tense. He got the first batter to ground out to fellow Canadian, McCoy Pearce at third base, but then gave up a walk and a double to the next two Bluejay hitters. He got the second out of the inning on a fielder's choice, but surrendered a run. Another walk to the next hitter loaded the bases, and brought the go-a-head run to the plate. Manick, who has been spectacular all season in regrouping. He got the next Bluejay hitter to fly out to center field to end the game.
The Bulldog offense in game two was led by the multi-hit performances of Pearce and Lane Fleming. Fleming went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles, and drove in one of the four Bulldog runs, and Pearce. who was 2-for-3, also with a pair of singles. The lone extra base hit for the Bulldogs was a double by Dom Ramos that drove in one of the Bulldog runs.
"Our starting pitching really stepped up today," Bulldog HEad Coach Bryan Moses said. "We knew we needed good outings from Connor and Brunken to beat an established team like Tabor, and that's what they delivered. On to tomorrow."
With the wins, the Bulldogs have reached the 30-win plateau in back-to-back seasons, sitting at 30-11 overall. They are also 19-7 in the KCAC, their best mark in program history. They will wrap up the series with Tabor on Sunday, with a single nine staring at 1 p.m.