GARDEN CITY — The Great Bend High School Panthers wrapped up Western Athletic Conference baseball action in convincing fashion, sweeping Garden City on Tuesday at Clint Lightner Field.
The Panthers won 11-3 in the opener and 15-2 in five innings, improving to 14-4 overall, including 5-3 in the WAC. Garden City drops to 3-15, 0-8.
The Panthers are vying for the No. 2 seed and a home berth for next week’s Class 5A regional play. They close the regular season on Thursday with a non-conference doubleheader at Scott City.
“We just want to be playing our best ball at the end of the season and we’ve been really competing well at the plate,” Great Bend head coach Randy Beck said. “We threw a lot of strikes on the mound and ran the bases really well today.
“In particular, we moved runners well, getting bunts down, getting kids in scoring position and scoring runs.”
In the second game, right-hander Matt Marshall stymied the Buffaloes through four innings, shutting them out on two hits, and the Panthers scored at least one run in every inning, capped by a six-run fifth, to put the 10-run rule into effect.
Three straight singles by Garden City in the bottom of the fifth negated Marshall’s shutout bid as the Buffaloes put two runs on the board. They finished with only five hits.
Garden City’s Dylan Deckett had the only hits off Marshall through the first four innings, getting singles in the first and fourth. The Buffs threatened after Deckett’s single in the fourth. Billy Phipps hit a sharp grounder in the hole between third base and short where Logan Buehler went into the hole, backhanded the ball and threw to second baseman Jace Bowman for a force play at second to get Deckett.
Marshall then induced Jake Curran into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Of Great Bend’s 14 hits, only one went for extra bases in Jeff Pike’s double. Pike finished 3 for 4 and Buehler was 3 for 5 to lead its hit assault.
“We did a really good job of playing some small-ball,” Beck said. “Whatever it took to get runs across the plate.”
The Panthers seized control early, getting three runs in the first, highlighted by a double suicide squeeze with Cole Smith putting down a bunt single with Marshall and Darien Blackwill, both of whom were running on the play, scoring.
After Pike doubled and scored on Buehler’s single in the second to make it 4-0, Bowman and Pike stroked run-scoring singles in the third to make it 6-0.
The Panthers scored three more runs in the fourth to make it 9-0 and then tacked on six runs in the fifth, loading the bases three times and sending 10 batters to the plate.
Great Bend 11,
Garden City 3
Panthers right-hander Mitch Kottas (3-0) lasted deep into the sixth inning during an opening-game victory. He scattered seven hits and struck out three.
Garden City helped open the floodgates in the top of the second, committing three errors in the inning as Great Bend scored five runs for a 5-0 lead. Blackwill, who finished 3 for 5, drove in one run in the second on an RBI single, his team-leading 30th of the season. Pike also had a base hit and later scored during the surge.
The Buffaloes cut the margin to 5-2 in the bottom of the second, highlighted by an RBI triple by Robert Tomlin, driving in Keith Curran, who hit a one-out single. Levi Richardson’s RBI groundout drove in Tomlin.
Great Bend, which totaled nine hits, increased its lead to 6-2 in the third after Connor Sell lifted a sacrifice fly to right field, driving in Pike, who led off the inning with a walk.
The Panthers’ Landon Leuenberger delivered a two-run single in the fourth to push the margin to 8-2. Leuenberger’s hit drove home Buehler, who drew a walk, and Cole Smith, who singled. Blackwill was hit by a pitch to load the bases, setting the table for Leuenberger.
The lead swelled to 10-2 in the fifth after GBHS scored two runs, including an RBI single by Leuenberger, where the Panthers also chased Garden City starter Phipps. Sell’s RBI groundout in the sixth made it 11-2.
Garden City scored its final run in the sixth on Richardson’s RBI single.
Leuenberger finished 2 for 5 and drove in three runs.
WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
At Garden City
Great Bend High School 11,
Garden City 3
123 456 7 R H E
Great Bend 051 221 0 — 11 9 2
Garden City 020 001 0 — 3 7 4
Mitch Kottas, Stefan Bennett (6) & Landon Leuenberger; Billy Phipps, Isaiah Rodrigez (5) & Thomas Solario. W — Kottas. L —Phipps. 3B — Garden City (Robert Tomlin).
Great Bend High School 15,
Garden City 2 (5)
123 45 R H E
Great Bend 312 36 — 15 14 0
Garden City 000 02 — 2 5 3
Matt Marshall & Landon Leuenberger; Edgar Montoya, Isaiah Rodgriuez (5) & Thomas Solario. W — Marshall. L—Montoya. 2B — Great Bend (Jeff Pike).