West’s David Kelley sprinted down the third-base line and slid safely into home on an infield single by Santiago Hungria and give the Pioneers a 1-0 victory over Garden City in a Class 6A regional championship game at West Side Athletic Field.
The game’s first run was scored in the 16th inning. The game lasted 3 hours, 46 minutes and ended with West earning a spot in the 6A state tournament.
“I knew it was do-or-die,” Kelley said. “I got a good jump at third and saw the ball hit off of the bat to the right side and knew I had to make something happen. It all just happened so fast, I used my speed to my advantage. I’m not an emotional guy, but I almost started to tear up after I scored.”
The first seven innings flew by as neither team could get much going, a classic pitchers duel between Garden City’s Syrus Schwartz and West’s Colby Pechin. Schwartz went seven innings, giving up four hits and striking out 10 Pioneer batters. Pechin went 10 innings for West, striking out 18 while allowing two hits and walking four. Pechin didn’t give up a hit until the eighth inning on a bloop infield single.
Miguel Ramos came in to relieve Pechin in the 11th inning. Ramos went six innings, allowing just one hit.
“Our pitching staff has been there for us all year,” West coach Jeff Hoover said. “Those guys have went out every game and busted their butts off and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
West’s offense had troubles with runners in scoring position, going 1 for 12.
“We struggled with runners on,” Hoover said. “I thought we squandered a lot of opportunities early on, we just kept saying ‘leave it and go to the next one.’ ”
The Pioneers’ defense was strong throughout the night, making the plays that needed to be made to continue the scoreless contest. The Buffaloes had an opportunity in the ninth inning with runners on second and third with one out, but Pechin got out of the jam.
West had a chance to end things in the bottom of the 13th inning with the bases loaded, but Garden City’s Eric Heiman was able to get out without any harm on a fly out to right field.
“I’m very happy for our kids,” Hoover said. “Our kids and our administration deserve it, they’re great people, West High doesn’t get enough credit for the people we have.”
West earned a spot in the final with a 3-2 win over Southeast. Garden City beat Northwest 1-0 in 13 innings – Garden City played 29 innings Friday and its pitchers allowed one run.