Buffaloes rally to drop Liberal

GCHS Athletics
Garden City High School second baseman Micah Perez scoops up a Hays grounder and throws to first base for an out against Hays April 9 at Clint Lightner Field.

Through four innings of Monday’s single Western Athletic Conference baseball game against Liberal at Clint Lightner Field, the Garden City Buffaloes had done very little to help their cause.

Offensively, they had just managed two singles while defensively they had committed two errors in the first inning that led to four Liberal runs and an eventual 5-0 deficit.

But things changed in the fifth and sixth innings for the Buffs s their bats came alive with seven more hits, creating 8 runs that eventually proved decisive in an 8-6 rally over the Redskins.

The dramatic turnaround pushed the Buffs’ overall season record to 8-3 and put them above .500 in the WAC at 4-3. They are on the road Tuesday, April 27, for another big WAC battle at rival Dodge City. The single game is set to have first pitch at 6 p.m. Liberal, meanwhile, fell to 0-5 in the WAC and 5-8 overall.

Even at the start of the fifth, things looked bleak as the first two Buffs’ batters were out. But with those two outs, things changed and changed in a hurry.

Iziah Salinas singled, Kaiden Luna and Caleb Metzen were issued walks and Jesse Baltazar followed with a bases-clearing 3-run double to left center. That pulled the Buffs to within 5-3 and the momentum seemed to turn.

In their half of the sixth, the Buffs got a one-out single from Reid Hopkins and Camden Munoz before Ricardo Almanza was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Salinas then singled to left, scoring Hopkins. Luna drew a bases-loaded walk to score Munoz before Metzen drilled a double to left, scoring Salinas and Luna, breaking the 6-6 deadlock and putting the Buffs ahead for good.

Baltazar continued his torrid hitting of recent games, getting the big 3-run double. It was Metzen, though, who came up big in more ways than one. Not only did he deliver the game-winning hit in the sixth, but he came in to relieve Micah Perez in the first and pitched 6 and 1/3 innings to pick up the victory.

Metzen was solid throughout, striking out four, walking two while giving up five hits and two runs. Although he hit two batters, he still was out in front of the strike count on 15 of 27 batters. He finished with 91 pitches. Micah Perez had started, but was plagued by the two fielding errors that led to four unearned runs while giving up just one hit in 2/3 of an inning.

“Defensively, I thought we played really well all game,” said Head Coach Justin Reich. “Metzen just pitched a great game and did a great job of mixing up the pitches and staying ahead of hitters. He was dominating the game.”

Reich said that while Baltazar’s season batting average (.286) is well down the list, he’s been the key hitter with runners in scoring position, currently leading the team with 16 RBIs. Metzen, however, is hitting at a .424 clip with 15 RBIs. Luna currently paces the offense at .500 (11-of-22).

The rally was not only a big momentum switch in the game, but it came on Senior Night, and in the final home game of the 2021 regular season for the Buffs. They are on the road for the next two weeks following Tuesday night’s WAC road game at Dodge City. They will play May 3 at Lamar, Colo., May 7 and 8 at Emporia against Andover Central and Blue Valley-West before finishing out the regular campaign at TMP-Marian in Hays on May 11. Postseason begins the following week.

Liberal 400 010 1 -- 6 6 0

Garden City 000 035 x -- 8 9 2

LIB—Aaron Barboza, Braden Holder (6), Hunter Huskey (L, 6) and Rotolo. GC—Micah Perez, Caleb Metzen (W, 1) and Acker. 2B—LIB (Shay Kerr, Carlos Campos), GC (Jesse Baltazar, Caleb Metzen). LOB—Liberal 8, Garden City 7.