GARDEN CITY — Having to share a Western Athletic Conference baseball championship turned out to be bittersweet for the Great Bend High School Panthers.
Clinching a share of the conference crown after beating Garden City 14-3 in five innings in the opening game of a doubleheader on Tuesday at Clint Lightner Stadium, the Panthers needed a sweep to win the WAC title outright.
In a pitcher's duel between Garden City's Edgar Montoya and Great Bend's Tristan Hall in Game 2, Montoya spun a four-hitter in handing the Panthers a 3-2 loss. Coupled with Hays' 8-2, 9-0 sweep of Liberal on Tuesday, Great Bend and Hays share the conference crown with 6-2 records.
"The only thing that I can think of right now is the bitter part of that sweet," said Great Bend head coach Randy Beck, "because we really wanted to win the WAC outright and we had every opportunity to do that.
"Unfortunately, we just didn't get it done in Game 2. We battled to the very last out, and we've had so many comeback victories this year that I was positive that we were going to come back and win that game."
For the Buffaloes, 4-15 overall, it was their first conference win in eight games. Montoya, who shut down Emporia 9-2 last week, was the reason.
"He had two pitches in the zone and he kept us off-balance the whole game," Randy Beck said of Montoya. "We hit some balls hard, but it seemed to be right at them or they made good plays on it.
"Unfortunately, that's kind of how the game went. A few errors early in the game hurt us and allowed them to get a couple of runs early. Unforced errors, there were a couple of those and that's hard to swallow."
Trailing 3-2, the Panthers, 13-4, had the top of the order coming to the plate in the seventh. Bryce Beck led off by drawing a walk. After Brady Buehler struck out swinging, Dakota Conaway popped up on the infield for the second out. Down to their final out, Chad Touslee grounded out to second to end the game.
Hall, who lost his first decision in six games this season, had nine strikeouts in becoming a tough-luck losing pitcher.
"He did pitch a good game, to add to his collection this year," Randy Beck said of Hall, who allowed five hits, including only two through the final six innings.
"There isn't any reason why he should lose confidence in that. He pitched a good game and gave us every opportunity to score runs and win."
Garden City scored one run on three hits in the first before Great Bend tied it at 1-1 in the third on Touslee's RBI groundout, plating Buehler, who reached on an error.
But the Buffs scored a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the third, capitalizing on two GBHS errors, to make it 3-1.
The Panthers made it 3-2 in the sixth after Braden Jones hit a two-out single and Hall followed with a run-scoring double.
But they failed to push across the tying run in the final inning.
"We beat ourselves in the second game," said GBHS catcher Eric Ruiz, who was 2-for-2, including a walk, in the nightcap and finished 4-for-5 on the day. "In the first game, we were all happy and having fun and we were into the game.
"The last game, we just beat ourselves. Unfortunately, we have to share the crown with Hays. We don't like it, but we're going to have to deal with it."
Great Bend 14, Garden City 3 (5)
Great Bend scored six runs in the first and fourth innings and added single runs in the second and third en route to clinching at least a share of the WAC crown.
Touslee finished 3-for-4 at the plate, and Ruiz was 2-for-3, including a two-run double in the first, to get the Panthers rolling. They totaled 11 hits.
Beck (4-1) pitched a complete-game three-hitter. He allowed a pair of runs in the third, as Garden City closed the gap to 8-2.
But Great Bend (13-3, 6-1) pulled away in the fourth, extending the margin to 14-2. Dillon Reiser and Bryce Hofmeister hit RBI sacrifice flies, and Beck added a run-scoring base hit.
Garden (3-15, 0-7), which left four runners on base, scored its final run in the fifth.
GBHS stranded nine baserunners.
HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL
Western Athletic Conference
At Garden City
Clint Lightner Stadium
Great Bend 14, Garden City 3 (5)
123 45 R H E
GBHS 611 60 — 14 11 3
GCHS 002 01 — 3 3 5
Bryce Beck & Eric Ruiz; Logan Dechant, Andy Saldivar (4), Marcus Zapata (5), Ivan Gutierrez (5) & Daven Acker. W — Beck (4-1). L — Dechant. 2B — Great Bend (Ruiz).
• CRUNCHIN' THE NUMBERS
Beck 1-for-4, RBI, run; Brady Buehler 0-3, 2 runs; Dakota Conaway 1-1, 2 BB, HBP, 3 runs; Chad Touslee 3-4, RBI, run, Johnny Allende 1-3, RBI, run; Hofmeister Sac fly, RBI; Braden Jones 1-2, 2 HBP, run; Shade Wondra 1-4, 2 runs; Eric Ruiz 2-3, 2B, 2 RBI; Dillon Reiser 1-2, BB, SF, RBI, run.
Garden City 3, Great Bend 2
123 456 7 R H E
GBHS 001 001 0 — 2 4 2
GCHS 102 000 x — 3 5 2
Tristan Hall & Eric Ruiz; Edgar Montoya & Thomas Solario. W — Montoya. L — Hall (5-1). 2B — Great Bend (Hall).