Five home runs. Nearly 13 runs a game. Production from all areas of the lineup.
These are things the Junction City Brigade (5-3) have put together in the last week, rebounding from a season-opening sweep by the Topeka Golden Giants to sweep a two-game set with Liberty and a three-game set with division rival Sabetha. They knocked off the Lobos 11-5 and 11-1 in a doubleheader Friday, then continued scoring runs in a 17-6 victory Saturday night.
After two weeks, Junction City trails the Golden Giants by one game the Mid-Plains League West standings.
Brigade head coach Derek Francis said he believes there are a number of factors contributing to the Brigade’s success, but one of the key things is familiarity.
“Guys started to settle in,” he said. “You get here for a week and you get to know people, that’s just part of it. Those first few games are tough because guys don’t know each other’s names.”
This week saw the arrival of two new players, both of whom played key roles in the Brigade’s success over the weekend. Pitcher Christian Rawlings — from North Dakota State University — threw three innings of one-run relief in the first game Friday. Additionally, outfielder Blake Burrows — from Kansas State University — had four hits over the weekend series, including two stolen bases and a home run in his first at bat.
“Rawlings came in and gave us three innings when we needed it,” Francis said. “(Blake’s) kind of like a sparkplug. He brings a lot of energy and gets on base.”
But no one could match the pizzazz that Carson Sader brought during the weekend series. In Friday’s nightcap, he went 2-3 with three runs and two RBI, including two doubles. Then, Saturday, he went 3-5 with five RBI, including a two-run home run in the eighth inning.
“Carson was unbelievable,” Francis said. “What he did offensively was fun to watch.”
Sader’s home run was one of five hit by the Brigade this weekend. Grant Goldston, Parker Dunn and Parker Base also added home runs in the series. The home runs don’t necessarily come as a surprise to Francis, however.
“I get to watch these guys hit in batting practice all the time. (The power) is there,” he said. “It’s just one of tose things, just settling in and starting to feel comfortable.”
It hasn’t just been the hitting, however. Key pitchers have played a major role in the Brigade’s success this week.
On Friday, Andrew Repp pitched six innings of one-run ball against Sabetha. Saturday, Nate McBroom bent, but did not break, pitching five innings and preserving Junction City’s lead to earn the win.
The schedule this week includes a home-and-home series with the Kansas City Knights Monday and Tuesday. Then, during the weekend, the Brigade host Ottawa Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There’s also a home game Sunday when the Brigade host the Kansas City Monarchs. All games start at 7 p.m. except for Sunday, which begins at 5 p.m.