By BRETT MARSHALL
Even Trina Moquett found the words hard to come by in describing the way her Garden City Lady Buffs softball team played Wednesday in the Class 6A regional championship game at Tangeman Sports Complex.
Unusually descriptive in describing her sport of coaching, Moquett had difficulty in explaining the 14-6 loss to Derby's Panthers, preventing them from making their first trip to the state tournament since the 2010 team did when this group's seniors were freshmen.
"They're kids. Things happen," said a somber, but philosophical Moquett after watching her Lady Buffs commit six costly errors. She watched them misplay fly balls to the outfield. She watched routine ground balls roll under gloves. She watched balls thrown to the wrong bases. There were passed balls, wild pitches, and defensive errors by not being in the right place at the right time.
You name it, the Lady Buffs found a way to do it wrong in the most important game of their otherwise memorable season.
Even in their 13-4 semifinal romp over Western Athletic Conference rival Dodge City, the Lady Buffs weren't sharp. In that game, which had to go seven innings, the Lady Buffs committed four fielding errors.
"Sometimes when you play with a lot of emotion, and you're excited, the brain forgets to do the work," Moquett said. "I think we just kind of lost track of things. It's hard to explain. I just don't know how to put it into words. It's unfortunate, because these girls worked so hard on everything. All the little things we work on every day, just kind of went out the window."
All those miscues enabled Derby to head home with that berth in the state tournament on May 23-24 in Overland Park. Derby, which improved to 13-5, had put a 15-0 whitewash on Wichita Southeast in the first semifinal of the day.
The Lady Buffs, meanwhile, finish with a 17-4 record and were co-champions of the WAC along with Great Bend. The 17 wins tied the 2006 team for third most wins in a season, trailing only the 2010 team that went 19-3 and the 2005 team that went 18-4.
"Even after the game, we talked about the good things that happened this season," Moquett said. "We talked about being great teammates to each other. Yeah, it's a losing note but I am so proud of what these girls did. The way they conducted themselves. They represented the community well."
In the end, all those little things added up to 12 unearned runs for the Lady Panthers. Even in losing for just the second time all season, sophomore Dusti Befort put on a pitching performance worthy of admiration as she struck out 13 Lady Panthers, walked four and at one point early got the first 10 outs via strikeout.
"Dusti pitched a terrific game, good enough to win most," Moquett said. "In the end, I think we just couldn't get things going right."
Befort even tried to give herself some offensive help as she had two hits and three RBIs. Senior Sierra Scott also came up with a long ball, as she cracked a towering two-run home run over the right centerfield fence in the fourth, which at the time pulled the Lady Buffs within two, 4-2. But the bubble burst in the fifth, as two errors led to five unearned runs for the Panthers, extending their lead to 9-2, and for the most part, putting the game out of reach.
The Lady Buffs had 13 hits, including two each by Kennedy Brunson, Jamie St. Clair, Befort and Kori Thornton.
In the Dodge City game, the Lady Buffs got off to a slow start, trailing the Lady Demons 1-0 before tying it in the bottom half of the first. In the third, the Lady Buffs exploded for eight runs, which was highlighted by a grand slam by Mekayala Guerrero and Befort's solo shot in back-to-back at-bats. Shea Nordby's two-run blast helped complete that outburst that put the game out of reach. Befort added another home run, this time a three-run shot in the fifth.
Befort's three hits and five RBIs paced a 14-hit attack while Guerrero, St. Clair, Casey Curran and Thornton each had two hits. Thornton picked up her eighth win of the year against two losses in her final mound appearance of her career. She recorded seven strikeouts and issued just one walk as her control kept the Lady Demons off balance the entire game.
Seven seniors closed out their GCHS careers — Guerrero, Curran, Scott, Thornton, Alyssa Greenlee, Jordan Arellano and Jada Schmale.
Dodge City 100 210 0 -- 4 9 2
Garden City 108 040 x -- 13 14 4
WP--Garden City (Thornton, 8-2) and Greenlee; LP--Dodge City (Tieben) and Steclein. 2B--Garden (Thornton). HR--Garden (Guerrero, Befort 2, Nordby). RBI--Dodge City (Sanchez 1); Garden (St. Clair 1, Guerrero 4, Befort 5, Thornton 1, Nordby 2). LOB--Dodge City 9, Garden City 5.
Derby 200 250 5 -- 14 13 0
Garden City 000 202 2 -- 6 13 6
WP--Derby (Gum), Godown (7) and Webb; LP--Garden City (Befort, 9-2) and Greenlee. 2B--Derby (Young, Long, Gum, Egan), Garden City (Brunson, Befort). HR--Derby (Egan 2), Garden City (Scott). LOB--Derby 5, Garden City 6. RBI--Derby (Young 1, Miller 1, Egan 5), Garden City (Befort 3, Scott 3).