The Garden City Buffaloes picked up their sixth win of the season with a 4-3 victory in the first of two games against conference foe Great Bend at Clint Lightner Stadium.
The significance of that win was they surpassed their win total from all last season.
Unfortunately for the Buffs, they dropped the nightcap, 9-7, leaving the bases loaded in the final inning of that game to shut off a late rally.
In the first game, Garden City scored three runs to open the inning, but needed an insurance run in the sixth to prevent extra innings.
The Buffs led off Game 1 with five straight singles, plating three.
Great Bend scored a run in the second and in the third, but still trailed 3-2 as the Buffs came up in the third, when they loaded the bases but couldn’t score anyone.
In the sixth, Elier Arreola scored what would be the game-winning run when Jayden Escamilla drove him in with an RBI single.
The Panthers, who left a base runner stranded in all seven innings, finally got to starter Cooper Thayer, who, after getting the first two batters out, gave up three straight singles to Great Bend to score one.
Aaron Urritia came in for the senior and got a strikeout to record the save.
Thayer scattered 11 hits, striking out five and walking one in picking up the win.
In Game 2, Auston Waetzig hit a two-out double and scored on Urritia’s ensuing single to take a 1-0 lead.
A two-base error in the second inning allowed the Panthers to score their first run.
In the second, Escamilla’s sacrifice bunt scored Arreola, but the Panthers answered on a strikeout-wild pitch play.
Alex Schremmer plated two right after that with a single, chasing Arreola from the mound, giving way to Urritia, down 4-2.
He gave up a single on the first batter he faced.
Three more runs in the fourth and the Panthers led 8-2, and eventually 9-4 after four innings, but the Buffs came back, trailing 9-6 going into their final at bat.
Urritia led off with a single and stole second, and the next batter Easton Lager drove him in with a single.
Lager then stole second, bringing up Arreola, who popped out.
Rawley Davidson was hit by a pitch, putting runners on first and second with one out.
Kaiden Luna struck out with the runners advancing on a wild pitch, bringing up Escamilla, who walked to load the bases with two out.
That brought up the top of the order with Koby Acker, who hit a first-pitch ground out to end the rally and the game.
Coach Justin Reich’s team is now 6-3 (2-3 in conference), having played all their games at home with four more coming next week, before finally hitting the road.
He knew Great Bend would be an offensive threat eventually and felt fortunate to have come out on top in a tight game and nearly coming back in the second.
“They’re a good-hitting team. They can put the ball in play, and we saw that in the first game,” Reich said. “Cooper did a good job managing runners and putting the ball over the plate, and we were able to get into kind of a groove on offense.”
Game two, he said, his pitchers struggled with some control early on, and the Panthers pounced on that.
“They found some hits and were using the hit-and-run pretty well, and they were able to get a couple big innings,” Reich said.
The fact that his team was never out of it, even down by five runs, was foremost on his mind.
“They fought through some adversity. I told them after the game that I was proud of them for giving themselves a chance at the end,” Reich said. “We were in a position to win the game.”
His team is better than they were a week ago when they dropped a pair to league-leading Hays, and they’re better than they were a year ago when they won just five games all season, he added.
“We’re on the right track. Great Bend’s a good team — they can hit the ball,” Reich said. “This gave us a good measuring stick for where we’re at right now and where we need to be.”
Garden City will host Liberal on Tuesday. Great Bend is now 5-6 (2-3).