Errors costly for Garden in loss to Dodge

GCHS Athletics
Garden City High School's Peyton Walters winds up to make a pitch to a Dodge City batter Tuesday during the Buffaloes home opener at Clint Lightner Field.

In their first five games of the 2021 spring season, the Garden City Buffaloes baseball team had utilized solid defense, timely hitting and reliable pitching en route to five consecutive victories.

They also had demonstrated the ability to come from behind as they had in a 6-5 win on the road the week before at Goodland.

On Tuesday night, though, at Clint Lightner Field in their home opener, the Buffs demonstrated none of those attributes.

In the final analysis, it amounted to a disappointing 7-2 loss to rival Dodge City in their second Western Athletic Conference game of the season. They had beaten Liberal earlier which leaves them with a 1-1 WAC mark and 5-1 overall record. Hays comes to town on Friday for a WAC doubleheader, starting at 4 p.m. at Clint Lightner Field.

Senior pitcher Peyton Walters, who has been the No. 1 starter thus far for coach Justin Reich, did a solid job in his five-inning stint, yielding just two runs, neither of which were earned, while striking out nine but issuing five walks. When he departed, after reaching a 95-pitch count, the Buffs trailed the Red Demons just 2-1 heading to the sixth.

Reliever Micah Perez, though, was tagged for three hits, five runs (none earned) with three strikeouts in one and two-thirds inning of work. The result was a five-run outburst by the Demons in the top of the seventh that broke open that 1-run game. The Buffs committed an unsightly six errors that led to all the Dodge City runs.

The Demons’ top pitcher, Aidan Sowers, pitched 3.2 innings, giving up 0 runs on just two hits, striking out four and walking six. He went far enough into the game to pick up the victory while leaving after 75 pitches in his count. Reliever Erubiel Duron hurled the final 3.1 innings, giving up two runs, both earned, on two hits while striking out five and walking another six.

It was a frustrating night at the plate and on the base paths for the Buffs as they stranded 12 runners to just four for the Demons.

Dodge City had taken a 2-0 lead with single runs in the second and fourth innings before the Buffs finally got on the board with one run in their half of the fifth. Three consecutive singles by Koby Acker, Perez and Kaiden Luna’s RBI produced the lone tally. With runners on first and second and no out, Caleb Metzen popped out, Caleb Wiese went down swinging on a third strike, and after Perez and Luna advanced to third and second, Reid Hopkins also struck out swinging to end the potential rally.

In their half of the sixth, Acker walked with two outs, stole second and advanced to third on a balk by reliever Erubiel Duron. The inning ended on a sour note, though, when Acker was thrown out attempting to steal home by catcher Alden Knedler. That was the potential game-tying run for the Buffs.

Two fielding errors by the Buffs in the top of seventh set up the Demons’ 5-run inning that was capped off by back-to-back home runs to right field (aided by a 25-30 mph wind) from Duron and Knedler to put the game out of reach.

The Buffs did score once in the bottom of the seventh, but with the bases loaded and two outs, Hopkins was picked off first base to end the inning and the game.

“It was one of those nights where not much went right for us,” Reich said. “Peyton struggled locating his pitches. Six errors in the field killed us. Three of those were pickoff moves that led to putting runners into scoring position or actually scoring.”

Reich also bemoaned the fact that the Buffs continued with errant base-running that proved costly.

“Bad base running carried over from the Goodland game with two guys being picked off in situations where there was no play, and running us out of innings,” Reich said. “We had two strikeouts to end innings with the bases loaded and another strikeout with runners in scoring position.”

All in all, it was a game that Reich and the Buffs will want to put into the file folder, learn from and move on to the next challenge, which will be the Hays Indians on Friday in an important WAC doubleheader.

Dodge City 010 100 5 -- 7 5 1

Garden City 000 010 1 -- 2 5 6

Sowers, Duron (4) and Knedler; Walters, Perez (6), Salinas (7) and Acker. Win: Sowers; Loss: Walters. 2B: DC (Rodriguez); HR: DC (Duron, Knedler). HBP: By Walters (Rodriguez); By Duron (Hopkins, Metzen). LOB: Dodge City 4, Garden City 12.