By BRETT MARSHALL
The opening game of the 2014 Garden City High School Lady Buffs softball season ended with a heart-breaking 5-4, 10-inning loss to Pampa, Texas, on Saturday at Tangeman Sports Complex.
But that was about the only down side to an otherwise impressive season debut by a youthful Lady Buffs team that went toe-to-toe with a Lady Harvesters team that was playing its 27th game and now owns a 21-6 season record.
"I'm super excited and happy for the way the girls came out and competed," said GCHS head coach Trina Moquett. "We're about two weeks into just practicing and they're playing their 27th game? I'll take the way we played."
It took a runner interference call on Garden City's Rylee Crawford, who was attempting to go from second to third on an infield single by Jamie St. Clair, to end the game prematurely. And still, the Lady Buffs gave the Lady Harvesters a run for their money.
"I liked the way the girls scrapped back and battled," Moquett said. "We're already showing signs of being a team."
Junior Dusti Befort saw a 12-strikeout, 3-walk effort be in vain, but even she was happy with the way the Lady Buffs executed, playing flawless defense in the 10-inning marathon.
"For our first game, I thought we played great, and I'm proud of our team for the way we battled," said Befort, who was the 2013 Telegram Baseball/Softball Player of the Year. "As a team, playing against somebody who had 20-some games played, I thought we came out strong."
Befort said she relied mostly on her fastball and change-up pitches despite having worked on a couple of other pitches in the offseason.
"Mostly just the two, and the change-up was the go-to pitch today," said Befort, who was understandably tired at the end of the three extra-innings battle.
The Lady Buffs had 10 hits off Pampa's two pitchers — Alexa O'Brien and Brittany Gonzalez. Gonzalez, who pitched the final six innings, earned the win and had five strikeouts while walking five. O'Brien recorded seven strikeouts with one walk in her four innings on the mound.
"They're good — really good," Moquett said of Pampa. "I'm just disappointed in the way the game ended. I saw it (interference) differently, but we can't put ourselves in that position for it to be even close. We'll take a lot from this game, and a lot of positives."
Of the 10 GCHS hits, St. Clair and Befort each had three.
Pampa had taken the early lead with single runs in the first and third innings, getting a home run from O'Brien in the third. The Lady Buffs plated two runs in their half of the fifth to tie the game when St. Clair singled in Crawford and Befort drove a double to right center to score St. Clair. The Lady Harvesters went right back in front in the sixth, and then Garden knotted it again in the bottom of the seventh when St. Clair raced home on a wild pitch by Gonzalez.
Each team scored once in the ninth, with Pampa getting its run on a double to center by Cameron Schaub and the Lady Buffs evening the game again on Shea Cartmill's bad-hop single to third that scored Befort.
It will be the 13 runners left on base and the five called third strikeouts that Moquett will be working on as the first week of the regular season kicks into gear.
"We can't have our bats silence like that when we have runners on second and third," Moquett said. "We've got to be swinging, we've got to be running."
What was thought to be a scheduled doubleheader turned into the one varsity game and one junior varsity contest. Pampa's coach/athletic director assumed it was one of each, while the Garden City administration and Moquett anticipated the normal doubleheader, just like it had been two years ago when Garden played at Pampa.
"I never assumed anything differently," Moquett said of the schedule snafu. "I don't get it. We play two games all the time, and did that when we went there. We'll have to figure it out as we've now got one game to fill in."
The Lady Buffs will next play at 3 p.m. on Thursday when TMP-Marian comes to town for a doubleheader at Tangeman Sports Complex.
Pampa 101 001 001 1 -- 5 10 6
Garden City 000 020 010 0 -- 4 10 0
O'Brien, Gonzalez (5) and B. Dixon; Befort and Nordby. WP--Gonzalez; LP--Befort. 2B--Pampa (Jerome); 3B--GC (Befort); HR--Pampa (O'Brien). LOB--Pampa 7, Garden City 13.