Garden City Softball Swept by Great Bend; Panthers Defend WAC Title
Garden City, KS (westernkansasnews.com) The Garden City High School Softball team had their opportunity. Unfortunately on this day the Great Bend Panthers were just one step ahead. The Panthers defended their WAC championship with a doubleheader sweep of a couple tough games 3-2 and 9-7 in eight innings.
Game One Highlights
Game one Garden City (10-2, 2-2 WAC) jumped out to an early lead in the first inning against 12-2 starting pitcher Hunter Middleton, a senior all-WAC selection from last season. Abbie Dart came through with a two out double and Dusti Befort singled her in for the first run.
Great Bend grabbed the lead in the fifth off Abbie Dart when catcher Dakota Sanders connected on a two run homer to grab a 2-1 lead. The long ball was the prevailing theme of the day for Great Bend going deep four time, two in each game when they only hit six homers the entire season coming in.
Sanders two run homer in the fifth gave Great Bend (14-2, 8-0) a 2-1 lead. Garden City fought back to tie up the game in the sixth inning off Middleton when rightfielder Shai Cartmill singled in Abbie Dart. The tie did not last long. The Panthers had two outs in the top of the seventh when Sanders went deep off Dart for a solo homer, her fourth of the year to give Great Bend a 3-2 win.
Dart was handed her first loss of the year (5-1) despite striking out 17 batters, finishing one batter shy of tying the Lady Buffs school record set by Leslie Ford.
Game Two Highlights
Game two had more offense and even more drama. This time Garden City used the magic of the longball when Haley Saldana went deep for her second homer of the year on a two run blast to give the Lady Buffs a 2-0 lead off Hunter Middleton.
Great Bend trimmed the Lady Buffs lead down to 2-1 when Middleton doubled in shortstop Regan Unruh. Dusti Befort was looking to improve her record to 6-0, but she encountered more trouble in the fifth when Middleton did it again, this time giving the Panthers a lead on her two run homer. For Middleton it was her second homer of the year.
Befort left after giving up a lead-off single in the sixth on Hannah Honomichl’s lead off single. Abbie Dart came back in and worked around an error and intentional walk to Sanders who touched her up with two homers in the first game. Dart retired the next two batters and Great Bende squandered a chance to blow the game wide open with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth.
Garden took the lead back in the bottom of the sixth, Saldana had a RBI single brining in Befort to tied the game at 3—3 and Kaci Finch reached when centerfielder Lauren Welsch dropped a fly ball at the wall. The play resulted in a bad throw from the cutoff and brought home Shai Cartmill with the go ahead run.
Just like it was in the first game, Great Bend overcame their mistakes and took a late lead. Down 4-3, Great Bend batted around and scored four runs to take the biggest lead of the day 7-4. Honomichl doubled in both Middleton and Welsch. Jordon Terrones made a diving catch to save a run off Hannah Mauler’s line drive and Morgan Kottas singled in another two off Dart.
Garden City down to their final three outs in the seventh had one more comeback scoring three runs to force extra innings. Terrones led off with a double, advanced to third on Alyssa Long’s infield single and scored on the front end of Long’s double steal. Dart then knocked out her fifth homer off Middleton to tie the game at 7-7. Saldana added a two out double, but was left stranded there with a chance to end the game when Shai Cartmill grounded out.
Great Bend stopped the seesaw battle in the eighth when Dart gave up her fourth homer of the day on a two run shot from rightfielder Kacee Kasselman. For Kasselman it was her first homer of the season and gave the Panthers a two run lead. Middleton who was struggling during several stretches of the game finished strong facing four batters with a two run lead in the eighth and striking out the side.
GC Head Coach Trina Moquett Post-Game
Great Bend repeats as conference champions and wraps up the league title in Garden City. The Lady Buffs lost their first two games of the season and will attempt to rebound when they play Clay Center Saturday.