Friday’s opening game of a doubleheader against rival Dodge City couldn’t have been scripted any better for the Garden City Buffaloes baseball team.
What’s not to like about a 10-0, five-inning, run-rule victory, that also saw starter Cooper Thayer limit the Red Demons to just one hit, a single by Omar DonJuan in the second. Top it off with an error-free defensive effort and the Buffs had a gem of a game.
Things even looked promising at the outset of the nightcap with a 4-1 Buffs' lead after three innings and a 6-2 advantage through the fourth. That uptick, though, didn’t last as the Buffs’ defense committed five costly errors and the bats went silent over the final four innings, resulting in an 8-7 loss in eight innings to the Demons at Clint Lightner Stadium.
The doubleheader split left the Buffs’ season record at 4-10, and they are 2-4 in the Western Athletic Conference while Dodge City is now 6-8 overall and 1-5 in the WAC. The Buffs will host Liberal on Tuesday in a single game, that will follow the junior varsity game that begins at 4 p.m.
While Game 1 was everything the Buffs could ask for, Game 2 left a bittersweet taste in the coaching staff and player’s mouth.
“The first game was one of our better games even though I struggled with my first pitch strike percentage,” said Thayer, a junior. “But we had good defense, the guys made the plays and we hit the ball well. One balances out the other and it resulted in a good win.”
The Buffs struck early in that opening triumph, with two runs coming in, the first when Andrew Kreutzer scored on a throwing error by Dodge pitcher Roman Rodriguez. The second came home on Auston Waetzig's RBI single. Another run came home in the second on Waetzig’s RBI infield single that scored Kreutzer, who had singled and moved to third.
Three more runs in the third upped the Buffs’ advantage to 6-0 as Isaiah Ramos and Thayer drove home a run each with singles and two more Dodge miscues added a run.
David Sandoval drove in another run with a sacrifice fly in the third, scoring Lance Allred, who had opened the inning with a triple. When the Buffs came to bat in the fifth, holding a 7-0 lead, they scored one run on a Red Demon error and then Thayer finished off the rout with a two-run single to right that ended the game when David Arteaga touched home plate.
Thayer, who finished with 73 pitches, walked four and struck out four in his 4 2/3 inning stint.
But all that good turned sour in the nightcap after the Buffs opened up that early lead, only to see it fizzle away with mistakes in the field.
“The cards just didn’t go our way in the second game,” said Thayer, who had an RBI sacrifice fly in the third. “We hit some balls hard, but right at them, and when we had key at-bats, we didn’t come up with the big hits.”
Arteaga was the big offensive threat in Game 2, going 4 for 4 with three RBIs. Allred added in a pair of hits as well to the nine-hit attack.
In Dodge’s half of the seventh, they advanced a runner to third with one out, and when a flyball to center was caught, the Demons didn’t send the runner home. But the next batter up reached on a fielding error and the runner came home to knot the score at 7. Noah Sowers delivered the game-winning hit with a single in the eighth, scoring Kaden Riekenberg. It was Sowers’ fifth hit as he was perfect at the plate in the game.
The Buffs’ bats, which had been hopping early, went eerily silent late, as Dodge City pitching retired the final seven Garden City batters.
“The second game is a hard one to take,” said head coach Justin Reich. “It’s the same stuff that has cost us in every loss this season. We lost some command of the pitching, the defense fell apart. To be up 6-2 and lose the lead, it’s really hard.”
Reich, though, liked what he saw in Game 1, when nearly everything fell the Buffs’ way.
“We continue to execute well on offense,” he said. “We can run when we want and we hit the ball hard all day. It’s just disappointing to let the second game slip away from us.”