By ALAN HOSKINS
KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- Kansas City Kansas Community College turned back Independence in a 3-2 opening game thriller Saturday but couldn’t repeat in the nightcap, losing 4-2.
The split left the Blue Devils (12-12) two games back of Independence (14-10) in the race for fifth in the Jayhawk Conference. KCKCC is right back home Tuesday, hosting St. Mary JV in a single 9-inning game at 4 p.m., and again Thursday in a doubleheader against Labette starting at 1 p.m. Winner of 15 of their last 17 games, KCKCC is 20-17 overall.
E.J. Merlo pitched himself out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh to get his third win in Saturday’s 3-2 opener. A dropped fly ball opened the inning and the Pirates loaded the bases on a single and two-out walk before Merlo struck out Dustin Oliver for the third time, his only strikeouts of the game. Merlo allowed only five hits, two in the fourth when Indy scored its only runs on a walk, single, error and double.
KCKCC took a 1-0 lead in the third on a leadoff single by Tanner Foerschler, a sacrifice bunt by Zane Mapes and Luke Norton’s run-scoring single and then erased Indy’s 2-1 lead with two runs in the fourth.
After Christian Arnold reached on an error, Eric Hinostroza doubled. Mitch Glessner’s ground ball scored Arnold with the tying run and Daniel LaMunyon singled in Hinostroza for what was the game-winner.
Indy took a 2-0 lead in the third in the nightcap, scoring twice on a double, single and an error that made one of the runs unearned against KCKCC starter Hunter Phillips, and then added two insurance runs in the sixth with two out, scoring on a single, hit batsman, double and bases-loaded walk.
Tyler Raymond launched his first home run of the season in the eighth inning to go along with a double and single. Garrett McKinzie also had three hits including a run-scoring single in the third following a hit batsman and ground ball. Pirate hurlers combined to retire 13 of the final 14 batters faced.