Garden City, Kan. (westernkansasnews.com)–For the third straight year, it was Garden City and Hutchinson facing off for the right to play in the Class 6A State Softball Tournament. And for the third straight year, the same two teams would meet up at Tangeman Sports Complex in Garden City.
In 2014, Garden City rallied in the sixth inning to knock off the Lady Salthawks 8-6. Last year it was Hutchinson rallying for six runs in the final three innings to win 6-3. The 2016 game saw now lead change. The Lady Buffs had all the scoring they needed in the first inning, scoring two runs en route to the 3-0 win, sending them to Overland Park for the Class 6A State Tournament next Thursday, their second trip in the last three years.
Garden City 16, Wichita West 0 (2 1/2 innings )
Garden City’s regional opener was one sided in a way that the only team slowing down the Lady Buffs were the Lady Buffs. They sent 19 to bat in the bottom of the first inning, scoring 16 runs on just eight hits, and took advantage of four Pioneer errors. The final two outs of the first inning saw Garden City leave the bases early to record outs. In the second, a ground out, a strike out and a walk with an early lead off sped the game up, and Wichita West went down quietly in the third inning. Ryleigh Whitehurts drove in two runs in a pinch-hit situation and Hailey Dart needed only 47 pitches to take down Wichita West in three innings, while striking out eight batters without giving up a hit. Jeanette Rios took the loss for Wichita West, and threw 79 pitches in the first inning alone for the 0-21 Lady Pioneers.
Garden City 3, Huchinson 0, Regional Championship
Both Garden City and Hutchinson came in with shutout wins over two Wichita City League teams. The Lady Salthawks won in 2 1/2 innings 17-0 over Wichita Southeast. Despite a .500 record coming in, Hutchinson would give Garden City a good challenge. The Lady Buffs got just that. In a rematch of a pitching dual between Abbie Dart and Kacia Hilty, it would be Dart who would get the better end of the outcome Thursday. Hutchinson put a runner on third base only two times in the game, as Dart delivered strikeout after strikeout, and the Lady Buffalo defense backed her up. Dart would drive home the first run of the game in the bottom of the first inning, when she singled in Jordan Terrones to make it 1-0. Laura Farmer followed that up with an RBI double to make it 2-0. Garden City scored once more in the fourth inning, when Kaci Finch scored on a throwing error in an effort to pick her off, making it 3-0. Both teams saw their pitchers deal and their defenses make routine plays the final 2 1/2 innings. In fitting form, Dart closed the deal for the Lady Buffaloes by striking out the side in the seventh inning, her third inning of striking out the side, and finished with 15 strikeouts in 21 outs. Hutchinson collected only two hits and walked twice. Kaci Finch went 3-3 at the plate with a run scored for Garden City. Kacia Hilty, who faced the Lady Buffs for the third straight year, thew only 61 pitches in six innings, and recorded two strikeouts and gave up six hits and walked only one batter. The Lady Salthawks end their season at 11-11.
Garden City returns to state for the first time since 2014, and will play on Thursday in Overland Park. The Lady Buffaloes will be either a two, three, four, or five seed, as they share identical records with Derby, Olathe South and Washburn Rural. Olathe Northwest will be the top seed at 21-1, Wichita Northwest the sixth seed at 18-4, Olathe East the seventh seed at 17-5, and Gardner-Edgerton the eighth seed at 16-6.
Coach Trina Moquette