Colorado Sox pitcher T.J. Looney’s linescore of 3 1/3 innings, no hits, seven strikeouts — including six straight — is one manager Dick Orcutt needed no reminding of Monday night.
“I saw all of that,” Orcutt said. “You always want to turn back the clock. If only we had gone straight to him, we might have been in the ballgame to the end.”
But Looney, a Seward County Community College graduate who, just on Saturday, agreed to play baseball at Wichita State as a preferred walk-on, didn’t enter the elimination game in the National Baseball Congress World Series until the fourth.
After El Dorado scored eight runs on three hits, five walks, a balk and a throwing error. El Dorado won 8-2 and the Sox were eliminated.
“I was going to bring him in first,” Orcutt said. “He’s an add-on player, and he’s the one I went around in favor of my own players.”
The Sox took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, but El Dorado pitcher Landon Busch only faced 19 batters over the next six innings. He allowed two hits in the game, striking out four in seven innings.
The Broncos were scoreless through the first three innings, but after David Parrett struck out to open the fourth, Colorado made mistake after mistake.
Colorado starter Tommy Rogers walked Wade Stramp and Patrick Esposito, then battled for nine pitches with Coby Roming, who took the last one to right for a single to load the bases.
“He made a lot of good pitches,” Roming said. “I could barely get a barrel on it, and then he left a fastball over the plate a little bit, and I capitalized on it. Seeing a lot of pitches in an at-bat helps you get a feel for them.”
With Mikel Mucha at the plate, Stramp scored on a balk by pitcher Wade Myatt, who had just replaced starter Tommy Rogers. Then Mucha walked to load the bases. Both Johnny Coen and Thomas Clay picked up RBIs after walking in consecutive at-bats for the 3-2 lead.
A big play came when Clayton Taylor hit a chopper at Colorado pitcher Keenan Hall. It looked to be an opportunity for an inning-ending double play, but Hall overthrew catcher Jaxon Mohr and two runs scored.
“The real key play that just about buried us,” Orcutt said. “… I think that threw all the momentum away, took the wind out of our sails. Not looking at any one play, but that could have gotten us a shot in the arm, and it didn’t.”
With the Broncos still alive in the inning, they added two more runs for the 8-2 lead.
“If you give good ballteams second opportunities, I think we have a good enough ballclub to capitalize on mistakes,” Roming said.
After that inning, El Dorado only managed two hits.
“I think we got complacent after the big inning,” Stramp said. “It’s easy to let that happen. I think we felt comfortable with Landon out on the mound; he was pitching a gem. He settled down after the first inning. We got comfortable, and we can’t let that happen.”
And then there was Looney.
He even struck out Roming, his longtime friend.
“It was pretty special (tonight). It was feeling great tonight,” Looney said. “Fastballs and curveballs and the last (strikeout) was a splitter that just dropped off the table. It was miraculous.”