After spending the entire first game stranding baserunners, Great Bend High School’s baseball team closed the deal during the nightcap of a doubleheader with Garden City at the City of Great Bend Sports Complex.
Despite stranding 14 baserunners in the second game, the Panthers also scored their fair share, plating five runs in the third inning, two more in the fourth and one in the fifth in beating Garden City 8-4.
The Buffaloes, 9-10 overall, 3-5 Western Athletic Conference, won the first game 2-1. The Panthers, who loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, had a suicide squeeze by Dakota Conaway go awry, resulting in a game-ending double play.
But the nightcap belonged to the Panthers, who got a critical two-run single by Conaway during their five-run third, where they sent 11 batters to the plate. Conaway also singled and scored in the fourth and doubled home a third run in the fifth.
“That says a lot about him,” Great Bend head coach head Randy Beck said of Conaway, who entered the day with a .348 batting average and finished 3-for-3 in the nightcap, along with a walk, and three runs batted in. “He could have hung is head and been negative, but instead he stays in it mentally and comes back and gets a big hit for us in game two.”
The Panthers capitalized on wild pitching by Buffaloes starter Jake Curran during their big third as he issued six walks and also hit a batter, helping the Panthers come back from an early 3-0 deficit for a 5-3 lead they never relinquished.
Right-hander Mitch Kottas, who scattered nine hits in pitching a complete game while improving to 4-0 on the season, finished 2-for-2 at the plate, including a double. He also drew a walk and was hit by a pitch.
Jace Bowman finished 1-for-2, including a double, and drew a pair of bases on balls.
“We were glad we got the second game,” Bowman said. “We need to stay above eight losses and keep us in our No. 3 for regionals.”
The Panthers are now 11-7 overall and finished 4-4 in conference play.
“We’ve got to win at Larned on Thursday to hold our No. 3 seed (in upcoming Class 5A regional play next Tuesday),” Randy Beck said. “That’s really where we want to be when we go to regionals.”
Garden City 2, Great Bend 1
Panthers right-hander Bryce Beck and Garden right-hander Edgar Montoya were locked in a pitcher’s duel in the opener.
Trailing 2-0, Great Bend finally got to Montoya in the seventh, placing runners on second and third with one out. Bowman’s single drove in Connor Sell from third base to chop Garden’s lead in half, and then Kottas walked to load the bases as right-hander Jake Curran came on in relief of Montoya.
The Panthers called for a suicide squeeze, with Matt Marshall breaking for home plate from third. But Conaway bunted the baseball straight up into the air, with Curran catching the pop fly in front of the mound and doubling up Bowman off second base for a game-ending double play.
“I think nine times out of 10, Dakota gets that ball down,” Randy Beck said. “He’s one of the best bunters on the team and I really had faith running that play.
“That one time, it didn’t go our way.”
Bryce Beck (3-2) allowed only three hits in being the hard-luck losing pitcher. He allowed a total of four walks and gave up both of his runs in the third, yielding an RBI double to Robert Tomlin and an RBI groundout to Curran.
“That’s how it goes sometimes in baseball,” Bryce Beck said. “Stranger things happen and you’ve just got to deal with it, rebound and come back.
“We’re trying our best to put runs on the board, but sometimes it doesn’t happen.”
Great Bend struggled mightily with runners in scoring position, stranding 11 baserunners, including leaving the bases loaded in the first, stranding one in the second, two in the third, one in the fourth, one in the fifth and then left the bases full again in its final at-bat.
Bowman, who entered the game with a team-leading .491 batting average, raised his average over the .500 plateau after going 3 for 4 at the plate.
“We definitely gave ourselves a chance in that first game and it didn’t end the way we wanted it to,” Bowman said.
Bryce Beck had the Panthers’ only other hit.
HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL
Western Athletic Conference
At Great Bend
City of Great Bend
Garden City 2, Great Bend 1
123 456 7 R H E
Garden City 002 000 0 — 2 3 4
Great Bend 000 000 1 — 1 4 2
Edgar Montoya & Thomas Solorio; Bryce Beck & Eric Ruiz. W — Solorio. L — Beck (3-2). 2B — Great Bend: Jace Bowman; Garden City: Robert Tomlin.
Great Bend 8, Garden City 4
123 456 7 R H E
Garden City 120 100 0 — 4 9 1
Great Bend 005 210 x — 8 8 0
Jake Curran, Isaiah Rodriguez (3) & Thomas Solorio; Mitch Kottas & Eric Ruiz. W — Kottas (4-0). L — Curran. 2B — Great Bend: Jace Bowman, Kottas, Dakota Conaway.