Wichita, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-If only Garden City Coach Bill Wilson could go back in time.
His team would gladly jump aboard that time machine.
In a marathon day that saw the Buffaloes play a combined 29 innings, it was one play that defined all of it.
Against a drawn-in infield in the bottom of the 16th, Santiago Hungria’s slowly hit ball towards Eden Arreola at second allowed David Kelly to score from third, giving Wichita West a dramatic 1-0 victory over Garden City in the 6A regional final Friday night at Westside Athletic Field.
“This team believed this year, that was the biggest difference compared to years past,” Buffaloes Coach Bill Wilson said.
That belief led to a 1-0, 13-inning victory in the regional semifinals over Wichita Northwest, when Zac Hopkins suicide squeeze scored Eric Heiman from third. But despite several chances in the night cap to end a 21-year state-tournament drought, the Buffaloes never produced with runners in scoring position.
Pioneers starter Colby Pechin silenced the Garden City bats, holing them without a hit for the first seven innings before Hopkins finally broke up the no-no with a single to center in the eighth.
Then the missed opportunities.
With runners at the corners in the ninth, Pechin got Cooper Thayer to ground out harmlessly to short to retire the side.
In the 10th, Garden City (10-10) had runners at second and third with two outs. Davin Acker had worked ahead in the count 3-1 before Pechin got the Buffaloes’ shortstop to swing at two off-speed pitches to end the threat.
Garden City’s best chance may have come in the 12th after Heiman was hit by a pitch. Lorenzo Hinojos then bunted him over to second. But Heiman was caught hanging off of second, and reliever Miguel Ramos fired a strike to shortstop Trevor Veltman who beat the Buffaloes starting pitcher back to the bag. Eventually Hopkins struck out looking to end another scoring opportunity.
Wichita West squandered several scoring chances of their own, including a bases-loaded situation in the 13th. Ramos and Veltman ripped back-to-back singles the begin the frame. Then after Salas’s sac bunt moved the runners over, Kendle Thompson walked to load them up with one out.
Reliever Syrus Schwartz never blinked.
Schwartz induced Kelly into a force out where Acker threw out Ramos at home. Then with two outs, he got Pechin to fly out to right to end the inning.
The Buffaloes countered by getting the go-ahead run to second in the 15th when Nick Laureles singled and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Hopkins. But Arreola popped out to second baseman Matt Kelly who instinctively threw out Laureless for a double play.
After Garden City went in order in the 16th, the Pioneers went to work. (David) Kelly reached on a fielding error on Thayer at third. Pechin then got on when Acker’s throw sailed up the 1st-base line putting runners at the corners. That eventually setup Hungria’s heroics.
In the end, the two teams were a combined 1-for-22 with runners in scoring position and left 26 men on base. But the biggest story came the day after the dramatic win.
The Kansas State High School Activities Association ruled that both Pechin and Wichita West (16-6) Coach Jeff Hoover broke a rule that allows pitchers to only throw nine innings in one day. Pechin threw 10, prompting an immediate suspension of both for this week’s state tournament.