Underdogs gunning for upset

5/27/2014

Lady Buffs (14-7) take on Washburn Rural (20-2) in state opener Thursday.

Lady Buffs (14-7) take on Washburn Rural (20-2) in state opener Thursday.

By BRETT MARSHALL

bmarshall@gctelegram.com

It's not every year that the Garden City Lady Buffaloes softball team heads east to play in the Class 6A state tournament.

In fact, it's been four years since they last made an appearance, when a team that finished 19-3 for the most wins in school history had a brief visit with an opening-round loss.

So when the Lady Buffs hit the diamond at 3 p.m. Thursday to face Topeka-Washburn Rural (20-2), last year's state runner-up, they will be a decided underdog with their 14-7 season record.

"I think we've grown through the season and this is the kind of team you want, a team that will battle, fight through and be competitive," said second-year coach Trina Moquett on Tuesday. "I couldn't be happier with the group of girls we have."

It took all that competitiveness and fight to get through the regional qualifier last week as they fell behind Hutchinson 6-2 after five innings, and still trailed 6-3 in the sixth before rallying for an 8-6 triumph over the Salthawks.

"We've kinda gone up and down through the season," Moquett said of a team that had a team-best five-game winning streak in the middle of the season. "We really haven't stayed on an even keel for long stretches of the season, so you'd like to be on that upside going into the state tournament."

Moquett doesn't anticipate any problems in her team being ready to play come Thursday.

"If you can't get up for the state tournament, then I don't know what I can do for them," Moquett said. "To be among the final eight is an honor and a privilege. We should have the intensity that you need, but at the same time, this group plays their best when they stay loose."

With a full week to prepare for the state tournament, Moquett has had her team doing multiple repetitions for basic fundamental drills, as well as conducting a camp for young players early this week.

"Just teaching kids about the game, and sometimes when you're doing the teaching, the fundamentals come more into focus for you," Moquett said.

Moquett said she would likely ride the arm of junior Dusti Befort as the starter for Thursday's tournament opener against the Lady Junior Blues. "She's got the most experience of our two (freshman Abbie Dart is the other pitcher for the team), so that's who we'll go with."

Befort has posted an 8-3 record this season, throwing 73.1 innings, giving up 53 hits and 40 runs (2.48 ERA). She has recorded 89 strikeouts and given up 24 walks. Dart, meanwhile, has gone 6-4 in 52.2 innings, recording 78 strikeouts and walking 25. Her ERA is 3.45.

The Lady Buffs enter the state tourney with a team batting average of .360. Befort (.432), senior Jamie St. Clair (.425), and junior Shea Nordby (.400) lead the way at the plate. Befort and sophomore Haley Saldana lead the team in home runs with three each, and Befort tops the RBI list with 28.

"We'll certainly be the underdog in this one, but there's no other place I'd rather be," Moquett said. "Nobody expects much from us, so that just lets us go and play with no pressure. It gives us our best chance because we just go there and play."

Moquett said Washburn Rural is heavy in seniors, with several headed off to college to play next year.

"They're gonna be good teams at the state, that's what you get," Moquett said. "We've played some good teams throughout the season to prepare us for this kind of competition. We're looking forward to the challenge. It's a great opportunity for us to gain some experience."

A victory over the Lady Junior Blues would put them into Friday's semifinals at 1 p.m. against the winner of the Olathe Northwest (18-4) vs. Blue Valley West (15-7) game.

In the other half of the bracket, it will be unbeaten and defending state champion Olathe East (22-0) facing Derby (12-10) at 11 a.m., while Olathe South (18-4) takes on Maize High (18-4) at 1 p.m. The third-place and championship games are scheduled for 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Friday. All games are at Blue Valley West High School in Overland Park.

Garden City Lady Buffaloes (14-7)

Season Results

Pampa, Texas--L 5-4; TMP-Marian--W 15-0, W 10-0; Goodland--W 11-8, L 8-4; Liberal--W 13-2, W 15-0; Colby--W 9-0, W 16-0; Great Bend--W 6-4, L 8-1; Dodge City--W 10-0, W 2-0; Goddard Eisenhower--L 9-2, W 3-2; Andover Central--L 4-1; Mill Valley--L 16-0; Hays High--L 5-1, W 6-1; Wichita East--W 16-0 (3 inn.); Hutchinson--W 8-6.

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