September 27, 2022

Buffalo softball makes history; earns first victory at state tournament


box score

Lawrence, KS-It was something 24 years in the making. Finally, on a windy, sun-soaked afternoon, a two-decade long drought came to an end.

Garden City High School softball had made six previous trips to the state tournament where they had lost all six, opening-round games. That was until Thursday afternoon, where Abbie Dart pitched a nine-strikeout gem and Yazmin Vargas reached base five times, as the fifth-seeded Buffaloes took down No. 4 Blue Valley 10-0, in a six-inning, run-rule victory in the 6A state quarterfinals at Arrocha Park.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Garden City Coach Trina Moquett said. “This was for all the players who have ever put on a Buffalo uniform.”

What John Ford started back in 1994, Moquett finished, thanks to Dart’s pitching performance that had the Tigers’ hitters shaking their heads.

But before Dart befuddled the Blue Valley (17-6, 14-4) offense, Garden City (18-5, 8-0) got a spark of their own when Vargas was hit by a pitch in the top of the first, stole second and third; then came home on a passed ball. After Farmer was plunked by a Grace Garcia rise ball, Taylor Terpstra stroked an RBI single for a 2-0 lead.

“We knew what we had to do,” Moquett added. “I thought we had the right mindset from the start.”

That was so true. Oh yeah: they also had Dart on their side.

The senior struck out two in the first; then worked her way out of a bases-loaded jam in the second by striking out shortstop Paige Robbins.

“Abbie was fantastic,” Moquett said. “She hit her spots, and was consistent all day long.”

While Dart was dealing, the Buffaloes padded their lead in the second, thanks to an error on Robbins where she dropped a routine popup off the bat of Kaci Finch. Ryleigh Whitehurst trotted home from third, and the Buffaloes had a 3-0 advantage.

It was only the tip of the ice burg.

“We took advantage of our opportunities,” Moquett said. “We’ve done that all season, and today was no different.”

Blue Valley pitcher Grace Garcia worked behind the count all day, starting with a 34-pitch first inning. In the fourth, the Buffaloes delivered the junior pitcher, who has already committed to South Dakota, a knockout blow. Vargas and Alyssa Long singled to begin the frame. Both runners advanced on a passed ball before Finch drew a walk. Dart followed with an RBI single to right, Laura Farmer walked to bring in Long, and after Taylor Terpstra and Hailey Dart recorded outs, Morgan Cabral singled home a run to make it 6-0. With Whitehurst at the plate, Garcia threw behind the batter, allowing (Hailey) Dart to score from third. On the same play, catcher Ashley Mercer picked up the ball that was rolling towards the Tigers’ dugout, and flung it up the first-base line, allowing Farmer to come home.

“We needed to break it open, and we did,” Moquett said. We played solid all the way around.”

Garcia’s day was done after Whitehurst flew out to center to end the inning. But the Buffaloes had tagged her with five more runs on four hits and one brutal miscue that pushed the Garden City lead to 8-0.

In the fifth, Vargas tripled and scored on Long’s groundout, and in the sixth, Vargas brought home the all-important 10th run when she pushed a ball to the right side of the infield where Lauren Stark misplayed it, allowing Cabral to charge around from third.

“Yazmin is a spark plug,” Moquett said. “She does so many things well.”

Meantime Dart allowed just two hits: a one-out double to Garcia in the third and a Robbins single in the fifth. She faced just 24 batters while throwing 94 pitches to earn her 11th victory of the season. Her counterpart Garcia lasted only four innings before giving way to Ashley Pinkham. She allowed seven earned runs on seven hits while striking out six.

“It’s onto the next one,” Moquett said. “We have a chance to do something special, but we have to keep grinding.”

Next up: 6A state semifinals: Garden City (18-5) vs. Olathe NW (22-1)-Friday, May 26-10:45 a.m. pregame; 11 a.m. first pitch on 99.9 FM: westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app