By BRETT MARSHALL
Even though the Garden City High School softball team already clinched a tie with Great Bend for the Western Athletic Conference on Tuesday at Hays, there was still a lot of unfinished business for the Lady Buffs when they hosted Liberal in a non-league doubleheader on Friday at Tangeman Sports Complex.
The biggest part of the unfinished business was to win both games and secure the No. 2 overall seed in the Class 6A South Central Regional, thus assuring the Lady Buffs of home field in the regional playoffs that start on Tuesday, while also avoiding having to be in the same bracket with top-seed Wichita Northwest or powerhouses Wichita Heights and Maize.
Consider their unfinished business now complete.
That was assured with solid, if not spectacular, play in posting wins of 11-1 in six innings and following that up with a 9-2 win on Senior Night, when the Lady Buffs recognized eight graduating players, including Brittinee Nichols, the team's student trainer, between the two games.
Playing their final regular season games at home were Mekayla Guerrero, Casey Curran, Sierra Scott, Kori Thornton, Alyssa Greenlee, Jordan Arellano and Jada Schmale.
All seven seniors saw action, with Schmale getting a start in Game 1 and playing the entire way in left field. Arellano sat in Game 1, but started and played in Game 2. The remaining five seniors are all regulars in the lineup for first-year coach Trina Moquett.
The twin victories improved the Lady Buffs to 16-3, and they now await the announcement, scheduled for mid-morning today, for the final regional assignments and pairings. Games in the four-team regional bracket will be played at 2 p.m. and 3:45 on Tuesday at Tangeman, with the Lady Buffs playing the second semifinal contest. The championship game is set for a 5:30 p.m. start. The winner of the regional moves on to the state tournament on May 24-25 at Overland Park.
Dusti Befort overcame a sluggish start to throw a no-hitter in winning her ninth game against just one loss. She finished with 10 strikeouts, five walks and hit one batter. Thornton pitched the second game and yielded just two hits while striking out two and walking two.
In dominating the Lady Redskins, the Lady Buffs accumulated 24 hits in the twinbill, with Scott and Greenlee getting four apiece, Guerrero and Curran three each, while all six had at least one RBI in the games. Guerrero drove in five runs with her three hits, one of which was a rocket-shot home run over the right field fence.
"I had to switch bats during the season and find something heavier, and it took some adjustments for me to feel comfortable," said Guerrero, who is just rounding back into the form that made her one of the top batters three seasons ago in her freshman year. "Things have just been more mental, learning new things and touching up all the little techniques."
Guerrero had two-run singles in both games, and hit her home run in the second game.
"We're just trying to take one goal at a time, and now the goal is to win regional," Guerrero said. She and the other seniors were freshmen when the Lady Buffs last qualified for the state tournament, and that goal remains on the table. "We're letting them (underclassmen) know what we've been through, and don't try to overthink things. Just go and play, have fun, and play hard and pay attention. That's when good things happen for us."
Scott, who has seen action in left field, right field and first base all season after being a fixture in right field in previous seasons, was 4-for-7 in the twinbill, with a double and a pair of RBIs. Scott said she has enjoyed playing various positions this season.
"It gives you a new perspective to play everywhere, and then you know what your teammates are doing when they're in that position," Scott said. "It's been so much fun and I wouldn't trade this season for the world. We're trying to have fun, but also staying on point."
Curran, who had played mostly third base her entire career, became the regular center fielder at the start of the season, and has settled into her position comfortably.
"There were some adjustments at first, seeing the ball and knowing which way to move," Curran said of the center field position.
Moquett said she was just happy to get the two game sweep, and now can focus on the regional on Tuesday.
"I don't think we were quite fired up, but we knew what we had to do," Moquett said. "The motivation of the day was to get the two wins and secure the No. 2 seed. We knew what was on the line."
Moquett said she has been pleased with the way the team has blended together and responded to her and the new staff.
"I'm excited where we're at, but honestly I had no idea where we'd be when the season started," said Moquett, who had two highly successful seasons at Garden City Community College before taking over the GCHS program. "The girls have bought in and that's why they're successful. Getting the home field for regionals is huge. I hope that translates into helping us."
Liberal 010 000 -- 1 0 4
Garden City 116 111 -- 11 13 0
1 out when winning run scored.
WP--Garden City (Befort 9-1) and Greenlee; LP--Liberal (Darroch) and Hasik. 2B--Garden City (Befort, Curran). RBI-- Liberal (Tatro 1); Garden City (St. Clair 1, Guerrero 2, Befort 2, Curran 1, Scott 1, Thornton 1, Greenlee 2). LOB--Liberal 5, Garden City 9.
Liberal 100 010 0 -- 2 2 2
Garden City 042 201 x -- 9 11 4
WP--Garden City (Thornton 7-2) and Greenlee; LP--Liberal (Darroch) and Hasik. 2B--Garden City (Scott, Greenlee). HR--Garden City (Guerrero). RBI--Liberal (Hasik 1); Garden City (Guerrero 3, Scott 1, Greenlee 2, Arellano 1). LOB--Liberal 5, Garden City 3.