BY JIM MISUNAS
WICHITA — Great Bend Bat Cat pitcher Gyeongju Kim deserved a better fate.
Kim struck out eight batters in a brilliant 129-pitch, nine-inning outing. Kim departed in a 1-1 tie Monday with Sunflower Collegiate League leader Hutchinson at Wichita State.
The Hutchinson Monarchs broke through for a 5-1 victory with four runs off ineffective Bat Cats reliever Diego Escobedo from Mexico City. Easton Lloyd’s single scored Breck Nowik. Jordan Ardoin singled home Noah Griese. Barton Cougar Tanner Schrag drilled a two-run triple to score Loyd and Ardoin for a 5-1 lead.
“That’s a heck of a ballgame,’ said Bat Cats coach Roger Ward. “We have a good bullpen. But he (Escobedo) left the ball up and we got beat.”
It was a heartbreaking loss, perhaps the toughest since the Bat Cats lost 5-3 to the Cheney Diamond Dawgs at the 2017 NBC World Series in Wichita.
South Korean Kim simply pitched one of the finest games in the Bat Cats’ brief history. Hutchinson’s Tanner White scored on Sterling Sutcliffe’s second-inning single after he reached base on a single that glanced off Kim’s glove.
“We’ve played well and we’re as good as anybody,” said Ward. “We’ve got to play tougher. We need to make a play or get that hit. We’ve had opportunities and didn’t get it done.”
After that, Loyd’s fifth-inning double was the only time a Monarch runner reached scoring position until the 10th inning. Kim retired the final 10 batters and 13 of his final 14 batters. Catcher Junior Torres threw out Garrett Anglim (third inning) and White (ninth inning). Shortstop Zane Spinn and second baseman Noah Best turned a fourth-inning double play on Breck Nowik’s groundball.
Spinn scored the Bat Cats’ sixth-inning run on a Torres sacrifice fly. The Bat Cats were a clutch hit away all night as they stranded eight baserunners in scoring position. The Monarchs recorded 11 outs with a runner in scoring position. Monarch reliever Ryan Stuempfig (2-0) was brilliant with 4 2/3 innings of shutout pitching.
Bat Cats Dylan Blomquist (first and 10th innings); Noah Best (second, fourth innings); Micah Grover (fifth inning); Andrew Enwiya (sixth inning); Spinn (eighth inning) and pinch runner Brett Freiberg (ninth inning) were stranded in scoring position.
Barton Cougar graduate Micah Grover had the game’s toughest break when his potential game-winning ninth-inning line drive was caught by Stuempfig, who doubled Brett Freiberg off second base.
Monarchs 010 000 000 4 — 5 7 1
Bat Cats 000 001 000 0 — 1 8 2
Howell, Stuempfig (6) and. Kim, Escobedo (10) and Torres, Forrest (10). W—Stuempfig, 2-0. L—Escobedo, 0-1. 2B—GB—Blomquist; HM—Loyd. 3B—HM—Schrag.
Monarchs 010 000 000 4 – 5 7 1
Bat Cats 000 001 000 0 – 1 8 2
Howell, Stuempfig (6) and. Kim, Escobedo (10) and Torres, Forrest (10). W— Stuempfig, 2-0. L—Escobedo, 0-1. 2B—GB--Blomquist; HM--Loyd. 3B—HM—Schrag.