Lady Buffs salvage split with Hays High

5/13/2014

By BRETT MARSHALL

By BRETT MARSHALL

bmarshall@gctelegram.com

The Tuesday softball doubleheader at Tangeman Sports Complex between the Garden City Lady Buffaloes and the Hays High Lady Indians had numerous implications for league and postseason positioning.

The Lady Buffs needed a sweep to ensure a tie with Great Bend for first place in the Western Athletic Conference, and a likely split to assure themselves of home field for next week's Class 6A regional tournament.

But when Hays put a 5-1 pasting on the Lady Buffs in the opening game, all that was left for the Lady Buffs was perhaps sharing second place with the Lady Indians in the WAC, and again keeping alive a higher seeding for the postseason.

That provided enough incentive, and the Lady Buffs came through in spades with a dominating 6-1 victory that left them with a season mark of 12-7 and a WAC record of 6-2. Hays, meanwhile, finishes out its season at 16-4 overall, and also 6-2 in the WAC.

While seniors Jamie St. Clair and Kennedy Brunson would have preferred to have a tie for first with Great Bend in the WAC, they were philosophical and happy about gaining a split.

"We knew we'd have to win both to tie, but none of us could hit in the first game," said St. Clair, who along with Brunson will be headed to Seward County Community College next year to play ball. "In the second game, we were able to fight back, and I think we saw a lot of the same pitches, but we weren't as anxious at the plate — we were being a lot more patient."

Hays High junior pitching ace Hannah Hearld handcuffed the Lady Buffs in the opener, limiting them to just two hits, one an infield bunt single and the other an RBI single by St. Clair in the sixth inning. Hearld had kept the Buffs hitless through five innings, and it was a throwing error by Hays that allowed Garden to get a runner in scoring position.

Other than that brief moment, the Lady Buffs did little to challenge the Lady Indians.

"We were two totally different teams out there," GCHS head coach Trina Moquett said. "We couldn't hit her (Hearld),, and Dusti (Befort) wasn't on. I think there was just a lot of nerves going on."

Befort, one of the top pitchers in Class 6A, lasted only an inning and a third in the opener before Moquett pulled her in favor of freshman Abbie Dart.

With the Lady Buffs down just 1-0 at the time, Dart did her job for the most part, except two pitches, one in the third and the other in the fifth. On both occasions, the Lady Indians made her pay for the pitch, with Hearld clubbing a home run in the third and Kaylie Schoendaller a two-run shot in the fifth.

"Abbie really came in and did a great job, except for those two pitches," Moquett said. "She's a freshman, and will just learn from those. Otherwise, she did everything we wanted her to do."

Indeed, in relief of Befort, Dart struck out 10 and walked just one in her 5 2/3 innings on the mound.

But things were much different in the second game, as the Lady Buffs came out swinging from the outset.

They scored three runs off three hits and a pair of Hays errors in the first, tacked on two more off of three hits in the second and added a third, and final, run in the third with two more hits. Haley Saldana had a run-scoring single in the first, and then two more runs came on a dropped fly ball in left hit by Shea Nordby. In the second, St. Clair and Befort had back-to-back RBI singles. In the third, Dart singled and moved around to third on consecutive sacrifice bunts before scoring on a wild pitch by reliever Madison Prough.

Hays could only touch Befort for one run in the second when Schoendaller singled, went to second on a wild pitch and came home on Prough's RBI single.

The Lady Indians missed golden opportunities to chip away at the Garden City lead, leaving runners on in five innings, including the bases loaded with one out in the fourth. Befort, who had thrown an unsightly 44 pitches in the short stint in the first game, was much sharper in the second. She threw only 87 pitches in the seven-inning complete game victory.

"As much as it was difficult in the first game, I thought Dusti was just much more ready to pitch in the second," Moquett said. "We looked more like the team that we want to be in the second game, and did a lot of little things well."

St. Clair and Dart led the 11-hit attack with three each, while Brunson and Befort added two apiece. Befort, meanwhile, checked the Lady Indians on four hits, with Hearld getting one double. Otherwise, Hearld found herself leading off two of her three at-bats, and the third time, with a runner on second, flied to right.

"I thought the second game showed the girls wanted to play, and they dug deep," Moquett said of her youthful team. "Once that confidence got rolling, there was no stopping the girls. It was nice to see that."

Now the Lady Buffs await the final week's results from other 6A schools to determine their opponent for the regionals, which be played either Tuesday or Wednesday, and likely will be at home.

"Getting to play at home will be a big help to the younger girls," said Brunson, who was recognized with St. Clair on Senior Day, along with manager Tara Butler. "I think we play a lot better at home, and it will be nice to have the home crowd."

------

Game 1

Hays 011 030 0 -- 5 6 2

Garden City 000 001 0 -- 1 2 3

Hearld and Wells; Befort, Dart (2) and Saldana, Nordby (2). WP--Hearld (15-2), LP--Befort (6-4). 2B--Hays (Hearld). HR--Hays (Hearld, Kay. Schoendaller). LOB--Hays 9, Garden City 3.

Game 2

Hays 010 000 0 -- 1 4 3

Garden City 321 000 x -- 6 11 2

Hearld, Prough (2) and Wells; Befort and Saldana. WP--Befort (7-4), LP--Hearld (15-3). 2B--Hays (Hearld). LOB--Hays 7, Garden City 8.

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