The Garden City Wind have been doing a lot of traveling to begin the 2017 season.
Just six of their first 21 games have been in the friendly confines of Clint Lightner Stadium, so it likely was a good feeling to come back home for their first true home stand of the season, which began Thursday night and is set for seven games.
The Wind got the stand started on a good note defeating the White Sands Pupfish, 11-6, Thursday evening behind a grand slam off the bat of Ryan Whitt.
The win is the Wind’s second straight and their second two-game winning streak of the season, improving their record to 7-14. The first came in the opening week of the season. Garden City took the last game of the series against the Roswell Invaders, 4-1, in Roswell Wednesday night.
The game started off a bit shaky for the Wind as they allowed three runs to open up the game. Garden City starting pitcher Ryan Calby walked the first batter he faced, then gave up a base hit, and then White Sands’ Colton Wolf hit a two-out home run to center field. This gave the Pupfish an early 3-0 lead.
The Wind threatened to tie things up in the bottom half of the first inning, but only got one run in after third baseman Ray Hernandez’s double brought in short stop Joey Cecere to cut into the early lead and make the score 3-1 after the first inning.
The second inning was the turning pointed of the game for the Wind as they scored three runs. Second baseman JC Peralta started off the inning by slamming a base hit into center field, then quickly stole second base.
Catcher Taylor Ellis then walked and soon after pitcher Ryan Calby — making his Wind debut — helped his own cause by loading up the bases with a successful bunt.
Cecere started the scoring with an infield single and a wild pitch from Fishpups’ pitcher Jesse Remington brought in the tying run, and a Hernandez broken bat single gave Garden City a lead it would not relinquish.
Garden City added one more in the third inning, and took a 5-3 lead into the middle innings.
After a rocky start to the game, Calby settled in and didn’t allow another run for the rest of his outing, which lasted six innings. He allowed four hits and five walks and gave up three runs, while striking out four. He recorded the win.
“It all starts off with Ryan Calby,” Wind manager David Peterson said. “When he did get into trouble, he competed and found ways out of it.”
Peterson was really impressed with how Calby was able to perform after the slow start.
“(Calby was) unbelievable,” Peterson said. “Even when he was falling behind in counts, him and (catcher) Taylor (Ellis) had just a great game plan, they were still finding ways to get outs.”
Calby’s cause was helped in the sixth with Whitt’s grand slam. Whitt, who was a late scratch for Thursday’s game due to oversleeping, came in for the injured Eli Roundtree in the fourth inning.
He woke everybody up in the sixth with his blast.
“I was just trying to get something good to hit and not try to do too much and try to keep my head clear — just trying to get something good to hit and out a good swing on it,” Whitt said.
Whitt battled to a deep count, and finally blasted one out after he got the pitch he wanted.
“I was trying to hunt fastballs and just something up in the zone,” he said. “He (pitcher) put something I could drive and I was able to put it out of the park.”
Whitt finished the game 1 for 3 with the four RBIs.
The sixth-inning grand slam also was a big a moment for lucky Wind fan. An annual ballpark promotion sets up one fan as a recipient of a BBQ if a Wind player hits a grand slam during a particular inning. Thursday, it finally happened for the first time in the franchise’s history.
Both teams added two runs in the seventh inning, making the score 11-5 entering the ninth, where the Pupfish gave the Wind a little scare adding one more run and leaving two runners stranded on base. Closer Ryan Harper closed out the final three innings, though, for the Wind and gave them their second win in as many days.
“Ryan Harper came out and he did everything we asked of him. He filled it up, he competed and he got outs,” said Peterson of his closers three-inning outing.
“When we play clean baseball, we give our pitchers more of a chance,” Peterson said. “We limit extra bases, and that really helps Ryan’s pitch count, and I was able to get Calby deeper into the game.”
The reason for the Roundtree/Whitt switch in the fourth inning was due to an minor injury to Roundtree.
“(He’s) a little banged up right now. We’ll evaluate tomorrow and hopefully he’s good to go tomorrow,” Peterson said. “If not, next man up.”
Coming home for a week for the Winds’ first true home stand is something that Peterson knows can help the team out after traveling so much to start the season.
“It does a lot. The biggest thing, we preach it all the time, is routine. We want to be able to stay in a certain routine everyday,” he said. “Guys getting into the gym, and it helps waking up at your host family’s bed. Once we can get into that routine, we can kind of get more of a feel.”
Peterson also knows that a well-timed home stand can turn a season around.
“It’s tough to start off on the road that many games,” he said. “You can’t really have set schedules, and you gotta work around the home team. But we’re glad to be home for a week, and we’ll have to take advantage of it.”
The Wind sit in fifth place in the Mountain Division, just in front of the 5-18 Pupfish.
The second game of this seven-game series takes place Friday. First pitch is set for 6:30 at Clint Lightner.
White Sands 300 000 201 — 6 8 2
Garden City 131 004 20x — 11 15 0
WP— Garden City (Calby). LP—White Sands (Remington). HR—White Sands (Wolfe), Garden City (Whitt, Peralta). 2B— White Sands (Davis, Haskins), Garden City (Roundtree, Rachun). LOB— White Sands 7, Garden City 7.
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