GCHS baseball has heartbreaking loss at regionals

GCHS Athletics
Garden City High School's Caleb Metzen makes a pitch to a Hays batter earlier this season at Clint Lightner Field.

For any level of competitive athletics it’s never easy to see a season end, especially when the game seems to be in the grasp of potentially winning that game to extend the schedule.

Such was the case on Wednesday for the rain-delayed Class 6A regional baseball tournament for the Garden City Buffaloes. The games were moved from Derby’s natural grass field to Andover’s turf field after rain on Tuesday.

The No. 7-seeded Buffs fell to the No. 10-seeded Wichita East Blue Aces, 4-3, in the semifinals of the regional tournament to miss out on the championship game against Derby, which had dropped Haysville-Campus, 8-4, in the other semifinal. Derby then went on to blank East, 13-0, in the title game to advance to next week’s state tournament in Fort Scott.

The loss left the Buffs with an overall record of 11-9.

East took a 1-0 lead with a single tally in the first and it wasn’t until the bottom of the fourth when the Buffs got on the scoreboard. Kaiden Luna was hit by a pitch, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. Camden Munoz then walked, stole second and Jesse Baltazar punched a single to center scoring both of them for a 2-1 Garden lead.

The Aces went back on top with three runs in their half of the fifth, making it 4-2 as the Buffs committed two costly errors.

In the bottom of the fifth, Koby Acker was hit by a pitch, Iziah Salinas sacrificed him to second with a bunt. Caleb Metzen then doubled to left, with Acker coming home to make it 4-3. Metzen was stranded at second with Luna grounded out to end the threat.

The Buffs had scoring opportunities in both the sixth and seventh innings. In the sixth, Micah Perez stood on third with the tying run and two outs, but Reid Hopkins struck out swinging. The nearly identical situation occurred in their final at-bat in the seventh.

Ricardo Almanza led off with a single to left, Acker put down a SAC bunt with Almanza going to second. Salinas grounded out to short with Almanza moving to third with two outs. That brought up Metzen, who has been one of the Buffs’ most consistent hitters and run-producers. On a 3-2 pitch count, Metzen went down swinging to end the game, and the season.

The loss also overshadowed a stellar pitching performance by three Buffs as Salinas started and went 4 innings, giving up just 2 hits, 1 run, unearned while striking out six and walking three. Metzen came in to relieve and went 1 inning, yielding two hits, 3 runs but only 1 earned with 0 strikeouts and 0 walks. Perez pitched the final two innings, giving up no runs, no hits with one strikeout and no walks.

The Buffs’ bats struggled most of the day as they managed just five hits, with Metzen’s RBI double and Perez’ double being the only extra base hits of the game. Salinas, Baltazar and Ricardo Almanza had singles.

Wichita East (11-10) 100 030 0 -- 4 4 0

Garden City (11-9) 000 210 0 -- 3 5 5

WE—Grant Haffley (W), Ben Waliczek (7) and Canon Cole; GC—Iziah Salinas, Caleb Metzen (L, 5), Micah Perez (6) and Koby Acker. 2B—WE (Ben Waliczek), GC (Caleb Metzen, Micah Perez). 3B—WE (Gus Lovingier). LOB—WE 7, GC 6.