Buffaloes split with Hays in WAC action

GCHS Athletics
Garden City High School shortstop Camden Munoz, left, looks to throw to first base for a double play after tagging second base to get Hays' Dalyn Schwarz out Friday at Clint Lightner Field. The Hays runner was safe at first on the play.

Friday’s Western Athletic Conference baseball doubleheader at Clint Lightner Field might well go down in Garden City High School sports history as one of the most stunning turn of events in any athletic endeavor by Buffaloes’ teams.

Certainly there have been come-from-behind wins in football and basketball that will be in people’s memory books for many years, but if one is a true baseball fan, then Friday night’s second game will be immortalized.

Down not once, but twice, by 10 runs as they came to bat in the fifth (7-17) and sixth (8-18) innings, the Buffs rallied beyond belief as they scored single runs to keep things alive for yet another inning before exploding for 10 runs in the sixth and then five in the bottom of the seventh for a walk-off 23-22 improbably victory over Hays High’s Indians to earn a doubleheader split after losing the first game by run-rule, 16-6.

The game-winning hit came from the bat of Jesse Baltazar when he drilled a 1-out double to left center, scoring Reid Hopkins and Koby Acker (the game-winner) as they rallied from a 22-18 deficit in their final at-bat.

“All I can say is that I’ve never been involved in a game ending the way that one did,” said GCHS head coach Justin Reich. “After making so many bad mistakes in the first game and the early part of the second game, we somehow found ourselves having some fun, and just kept putting the ball in play and making good swings at the plate. It was pretty crazy.”

The Buffs, who had won their first five games of the season before dropping their WAC opener in an error-plagued 7-2 loss to rival Dodge City, continued their sloppy play in the opener Friday by committing six errors that led to nine unearned runs in the five-inning run-rule loss.

“I told the guys between games that when we don’t make those mistakes, we’re a good ball club,” Reich said. “But when we make those mental mistakes and commit a bunch of errors, we’re not a good ball club.”

While Reich likely would like to point to a specific moment in the nightcap victory that consumed 3 hours of the clock, there is no one place where the momentum switched.

“Quite honestly, things just kind of started going right for us,” Reich admitted. “The momentum began to switch and I just thought, ‘this is some kind of show!’”

The Buffs yielded seven runs to the Indians in the second inning only to come back to score six runs of their own in the bottom of the third to get back in the game. That didn’t last long, though, as Hays plated six runs in the fourth and four in the fifth while the Buffs managed single runs in each frame to stave off the 10-run mercy rule each inning.

“Somehow, we just managed to do enough to keep the game going, and at some point I think we figured out that while Hays is a good team, they are not an unbeatable team,” Reich said.

A single run scored by the Indians in the top of the sixth put them back on top 18-8 and the Buffs were facing going home early again. Then, the clouds opened and the Buffs’ offense came alive.

Seven hits, two batter hit by pitches and two walks, led to 14 batters coming to the plate in that 10-run explosion that knotted the score at 18-all.

Peyton Walters started things off with a 1-out, RBI double to score Acker, Salinas doubled to score Walters, Micah Perez was issued a bases-loaded walk for another RBI. Caleb Metzen then tripled to deep center field to clear the bases, closing the lead to 18-14. Following a Hopkins walk, Caleb Wiese doubled to drive in Metzen. With two out, Hopkins stole home and Walters followed with an RBI single before Baltazar delivered the earlier biggest hit of the night, a double to center that scored Walters with the tying run.

“It was like the momentum just completely switched in that half inning,” Reich said. “The kids were having fun and we were doing everything right.”

That 14-batter, 10-run inning, however, didn’t last long as Hays plated four more runs in the top of the seventh. The way things had been going all day, it would not have been a bad assumption to think the game was over.

“The interesting thing is when the boys came in from the field after giving up the four runs, they were still excited and still believing they could win,” Reich recalled.

And that’s exactly what happened.

Ricardo Almanza walked and Perez doubled to put Almanza on third. Metzen delivered a two-run double to center, making it 22-20. Hopkins draws a walk, and then with one out, Acker singles to load the bases. Camden Munoz then is hit by a pitch to push a run across to make it 22-21. That brought Baltazar to the plate again. On a 3-2, full-count pitch, he lined a double to left, scoring Hopkins and Acker to end what perhaps is one of the wildest games in GCHS baseball lore.

“Things got crazy when Acker scored,” Reich said. “Everybody was running to home plate to congratulate and to celebrate. It was pretty wild.”

The victory enabled to Buffs to avoid a 3-game losing streak with a week off before hosting Great Bend in a WAC doubleheader on April 16. They are now 6-2 overall and 1-2 in the WAC. Hays falls to 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the WAC.

The morning after the wild finish, Reich was still searching for the right words.

“For most of the day, I wasn’t obviously thrilled with the way we were playing,” Reich said. “We were making bad throws on pick-off plays, we weren’t running the bases well ourselves. We were dropping fly

balls. It had been pretty bad up to then. All of a sudden, we’re having fun and things are going our way. I’ve never seen anything like it except in slow pitch softball.

Eight different players had RBIs, led by Metzen’s 3-for-4 with 5 RBIs. Wiese was 4-for-6 with 4 runs driven in and Baltazar 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs. Iziah Salinas pitched the first 3.2 innings, giving up 9 hits, 13 runs of which only 4 were earned. He walked 2 and had 6 strikeouts. Perez came in to relieve him and went the rest of the way (3.1 innings), giving up 9 runs, walking 7 and striking out 3.

Game 1

Hays High (3-0/1-0) 713 14x x -- 16 13 1

Garden City (5-2/0-2) 040 20x x -- 6 5 6

Wellbrock (W), Fandelt (5) and Cox; Metzen (L), Munoz (4) and Acker. Pitch Count—Wellbrock 89, Fandelt 12; Metzen 79, Munoz 42. 2B—HHS (Wellbrock), GC (Metzen). 3B—HHS (Dale), GC (Perez). HR-HHS (Dreiling). LOB—HHS 4, GC 5.

Game 2

Hays High (3-1/2-1) 070 641 4 -- 22 18 4

Garden City (6-2/1-2) 006 11(10)5 -- 23 20 7

Spray, Dale (3), Schwarz (5) (L) and Cox; Salinas, Perez (W) (4) and Acker. Pitch Count—HHS (Spray 71, Dale 70, Schwarz 50), GC (Salinas 84, Perez 87). 2B—HHS (Wellbrock, Cox 2, Dale 2, Fanfeldt, Spray; GC (Baltazar 3, Metzen, Perez, Salinas, Walters, Wiese 2). 3B—HHS (Dale, Bainter); GC (Metzen). HR—HHS (Spray). LOB—HHS 9, GCHS 9.