By BRETT MARSHALL
One might consider the season-opening doubleheader for the Garden City Buffaloes baseball team against Wichita Word of Life Academy as a poker game with not enough cards in the deck.
You're kinda dealt the cards you're given, and there's no drawing for a different hand.
In this case, the Buffs took on the Fire, a private academy that recruits not only out of state, but out of the country as well, and came in with four games under their belt, all four of them wins against teams from Oklahoma.
And, despite what will on the scoreboard look like lopsided losses of 9-1 and 10-4 on Friday at Clint Lightner Stadium, the Buffs played 14 innings, 12 of which saw the score differential only 6-5, but the remaining two were solidly in favor of the Fire by a 13-0 count.
"They're just solid all the way across, offensively, defensively, pitching," GCHS coach Bill Wilson said after the twinbill setback in the team's first games of the 2013 campaign. "We'd give them life with a lot of different things — getting behind in the count with the pitching, not being patient at the plate, making mental mistakes in the field. It was just a combination of things, and we just weren't very good."
In the first game, it was lack of hitting (one infield single in the seventh inning), errors in the field (four) and generally not having any patience at the plate which resulted in 12 strikeouts for Fire left-hander Dwight Raming, who handcuffed the Buffs throughout, giving up just one walk in notching his third win of the season.
"There was just a total lack of discipline at times, not staying patient at the plate and forcing them to make mistakes," Wilson said. "We'd get behind in the count at the plate and then we'd be swinging wildly at bad pitches. Word of Life showed discipline, even on their groundouts, they were hitting the ball hard, doing those things that you need to do to have a quality at-bat."
Senior pitcher Edgar Montoya was like Jekyll and Hyde in the opening game. The right-hander showed his stuff at times with eight strikeouts in five full innings and three batters of the sixth. But 98 pitches took its toll, and Montoya issued five walks before giving way to reliever Mitchell Hernandez in the sixth. Montoya had walked two and given up an infield single to load the bases, but when Hernandez stepped on the mound, he was ineffective by yielding a walk and four hits, as the Fire plated six runs to break open a 2-1 game.
The only hit for the Buffs came in the bottom of the seventh when Hernandez got a bad-hop single off Fire third baseman Michael Simrell's chest.
"When we hit the ball, they were soft," Wilson said. "When they hit the ball, they hit it hard."
In the second game, the Buffs took a 3-0 lead through two innings when Hernandez ripped a two-run double to left, scoring Isaiah Rodriguez and Thomas Solorio. The other run came in the second when Rodriguez came home on a throwing error by WOL catcher Pedro Dean. That 3-0 lead didn't last long, though, with the Fire pushing across three in the top of the third.
The Buffs briefly regained the lead at 4-3 with a run in the bottom of the third, scoring without the benefit of a hit on three walks and a hit batsman.
Then, once again, the floodgates opened and Word of Life scored seven runs off just four hits and four walks.
"At times, it seemed we were right there and then we'd leave runners on base, do something wrong mentally," Wilson said. "We've got to go back and work on the basics more, get the kids to understand how to make quality at-bats, not get behind so much in the count when you're pitching. Little things like that make all the difference."
Hernandez was one of the bright spots for the Buffs, as he played well defensively at third base in the second game as well as getting the two-run double.
"He was our bright spot offensively because I didn't know who to put in the four-spot," Wilson said. "He stung the ball and then turned the double play when we needed it."
The Buffs are scheduled to return to action at 4 p.m. Tuesday, weather permitting, when they host Wichita Heights, the team that eliminated them in the Class 6A regional last season.
WOL 001 106 1 -- 9 9 2
GCHS 000 010 0 -- 1 1 4
Pitching--WOL (Rahming, W 3-0), GC (E. Montoya, L 0-1, Hernandez 6). LOB--WOL 7, GC 2. 2B--WOL (Rahming). RBI--WOL (Ledbetter 1, S. Johnson 1, Chisholm 2, M. Johnson 1, Rahming 1, Neymour 1, Davis 2).
WOL 003 007 0 -- 10 9 2
GCHS 211 000 0 -- 4 5 0
Pitching--WOL (Spillman, Cote 3, M. Johnson 5), Garden City (Saldivar L 0-1, Rodriguez 6, M. Montoya 6). LOB--WOL 5, GC 11. 2B--WOL (Simrell), GC (Hernandez, M. Montoya). 3B--WOL (Ledbetter). HR--WOL (Simrell).