by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
Stung by a late-inning rally in an opening 7-6 loss to Northeast Nebraska Monday, Kansas City Kansas Community College responded with vengeance.
Powered by a grand slam home run by freshman Gavin Gifford, the Blue Devils scored seven runs in the first inning and cruised to an 11-1 five-inning win.
At 5-4 in non-conference play, the Blue Devils swing right into Jayhawk Conference competition Thursday when they play host to Coffeyville in a doubleheader that kicks off the 36-game conference season. Opening pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. The two teams will then complete the four-game series with two games at Coffeyville Saturday.
Gifford drove in five runs and Corey Combs singled, doubled and tripled and drove in three runs in the 11-1 nightcap win.
Four other Blue Devils had two hits each in the 13-hit assault. Josh Schumacher doubled twice, Tyler Pittman doubled and singled and Brandon Green and Kevin Santiago each singled twice.
The big outburst made a winner out of Liberty freshman Carlos Soto, who struck out nine, walked none and scattered four hits over five innings.
Soto started the game by striking out the side in the first and had at least one strikeout in every inning. The only run off Soto came on a home run by Brennen Bales in the fourth inning.
The first seven Blue Devil hitters reached base in the first inning, six on hits. After a leadoff walk, Brigham Mooney singled and Pittman bunted for a hit to load the bases.
Santiago, Green and Combs followed with run-scoring singles before Gifford cleared the bases with a towering 400-foot home run to centerfield.
The Blue Devils added another three runs in the third. Pittman doubled and scored the first run on a single by Santiago.
Combs tripled in the second run and scored the third on Gifford’s sacrifice fly and then drove in his third run with a double following a Green single in the fourth.
KCKCC was one out away from a 6-4 win in the opener only to have Northeast lash out three two-out hits in a 3-run seventh inning comeback.
Donovan Warren’s two-out single drove in the first run, Christian Dumont doubled in the tying run and Drew Smith’s double scored the game-winner.
Sophomore Julian Riveria, the club leader in saves last year, making his first appearance this spring after rehabbing from a shoulder injury, was tagged with the loss, giving up four runs and six hits in two innings.
Victor Gotay pitched the first two innings, allowing one run and two hits. Piper sophomore Gunner Vestal worked the next three, surrendering two runs on two hits. He struck out four, walked six.
Freshman Kevin Santiago led the Blue Devils offensively, pounding out two triples and a single for nearly half KCKCC’s seven hits. Trailing 3-2, KCKCC went ahead 6-3 in the fifth.
After a walk, Santiago tied the game with a two-out triple and the Blue Devils scored two more runs on a pair of errors. Santiago’s first triple and Green’s single scored KCKCC’s first run in the second and Santiago drove in the second with a two-out single in the third.