By BRETT MARSHALL
When Kori Thornton started her high school softball career in 2010, she was one of two freshmen pitchers for the Garden City Lady Buffaloes.
And while she rolled up an impressive 9-0 record on the mound, she never once went to the plate for an at-bat.
"I just never hit good," Thornton said following a dramatic 10-9, nine-inning victory in the first game of a doubleheader sweep (15-5, five-inning nightcap win) against the Goodland Lady Cowgirls. "I sat on the bench (last year), and I didn't like doing that so I worked really hard on my hitting and I got a chance to bat today." The sophomore right-hander took advantage of her first high school at-bats by going 4-for-5, including a first at-bat home run while driving in seven of the runs to pace the Lady Buffs to their first victory of the young season. "It's just about being confident and it helped to get going good early," Thornton said. "When I get down, I don't hit good, but today things just went good." Thornton also had to fight through a slight scare during her start when a bad-hop grounder caromed off her right cheekbone in the seventh inning with the game on the line. She remained in the game, however, but allowed a couple of runs during the inning.
She got out of the seventh-inning jam when centerfielder Kim Bogner relayed to Mekayla Aguiniga who then rifled a strike to Vanessa Garcia to double up Goodland's Brianna White at first base.
It was Thornton who drove in the winning run with a two-out single to center that scored pinch runner Alyssa Greenlee and Leslie Ford for the dramatic win.
After falling behind for the third time by two or more runs when Goodland scored twice in its half of the ninth, Kim Bogner started the bottom of the ninth with a single.
With two outs, Garcia singled to center and Ford, who had entered the game in the sixth as a pinch-hitter, also singled to center to score Bogner.
Then, it was Thornton's turn to be the hero as she ripped a 2-1 count pitch up the middle.
"It was nerve-wracking and just the longest game ever," Thornton said. "But we always come back it seems like. Somehow we just do. We have to get pumped up and once somebody gets a hit, we just keep hitting."
The Lady Buffs battled from behind after taking an early 2-0 lead through two innings.
They trailed, though, after a four-run Goodland third in which Thornton gave up six hits and the Lady Buffs committed two costly errors. Goodland pitcher Ashley Archer kept the Lady Buffs mostly in check through five innings to take a 5-2 lead into the sixth. Thornton's one-out single scored two runs in the Lady Buffs' half of the sixth and Sierra Scott scored the tying run on a Goodland fielding error. The Lady Cowgirls retook the lead in their half of the seventh by bunching three hits and using a passed ball to go back up by a 7-5 count.
Garden City answered in the bottom of the frame when Jamie St. Clair reached on a two-out error by Goodland third baseman Brianna White.
Garcia singled to right and Ford singled to load the bases. Thornton responded with a single to left that plated both St. Clair and Garcia and when the relay throw in got past the Cowgirls' catcher, Ford was sent home.
In a bang-bang play at the plate, Archer took the throw from Berkley White and tagged out Ford for what would have been the winnng run.
"We might have ended the game earlier if I hadn't run us out of a couple of innings," said John Ford, head GCHS coach. "That first game was like a little give, a little take and we just had a little more take at the end. Goodland's got a very good team and they're gonna go far (Class 3A)."
The second game started eerily similar to the first as the Lady Cowgirls opened with single runs in the first and second innings.
Garden answered with a six-run outburst in its second at-bat. Goodland responded with three in the third, cutting the Lady Buffs' lead to 6-5. Ford's team added a single run in the third, then five more in the fourth to go up 12-5.
Garcia singled to lead off the Buffs' fifth. Ford got hit by a pitch and Scott walked. Syndi Hernandez singled to score two runs and Scott raced home on Audra Aguiniga's single to right with the game-ending run.
Junior Jennifer St. Clair had the big blast for the Lady Buffs in the nightcap, smashing a three-run home run to left center to highlight that six-run inning.
"I just hit it," St. Clair said. "I have no idea. I just was looking for something to hit and I got it all."
St. Clair, who sat out her sophomore season, said the Lady Buffs like the pressure situations.
"We just seem to do really well when there's two outs," St. Clair said. "Our energy level goes up and that helps us. That first game was really fun, really intense. It was long and we just never gave up."
The Lady Buffs are idle until Tuesday when they travel to Liberal for a Western Athletic Conference doubleheader that starts at 4 p.m.
___ Game 1
Garden City 10, Goodland 9 (9 innings) Goodland 004 001 202 -- 9 13 4 Garden City 110 003 203 -- 10 16 3 Goodland--Archer and White; Garden City--Thornton and Jen. St. Clair. WP--Thornton (1-2), Archer (4-1). 2B--Goodland (White, Phillips, Siruta), Garden City (Ford). HR--Goodland (Cochran), GC (Thornton). LOB--Goodland 4, Garden City 8.
IP R H SO BB Goodland Archer (4-1) 8 10 16 4 1 Garden City Thornton (1-2) 9 9 13 11 1 Two outs when winning run scored.
Game 2 Garden City 15, Goodland 5 Goodland 113 00 -- 5 9 6 Garden City 061 53 -- 15 14 2 Goodland--Cochran, Archer 2, Cochran 5 and White; Garden City--Ford and Greenlee. WP--Ford (1-0), LP--Archer (4-2). 2B--Garden City (Hernandez, Garcia, Ford). HR--Goodland (Cochran), Garden City (Jen. St. Clair). LOB--Goodland 8, Garden City 10.
IP R H SO BB Goodland Cochran 2 6 7 0 2 Archer (4-2) 2 1/3 9 9 2 2 Garden City Ford (1-0) 5 5 9 5 4 One out when winning run scored.