Welcome to conference play.
The Garden City Broncbusters softball team opened Jayhawk Conference play with a couple of nailbiters against visiting Northwest Kansas Tech Wednesday afternoon at Tangeman Sports Complex. The opener featured a pitching duel that resulted in a 1-0 loss for the Busters.
Samantha Akers was dominant for Garden City, allowing just two hits, but a pair of errors allowed the Mavericks to score the only run of the game to get the win. But the Busters rebounded in the nightcap, taking another close one, 5-4, on a walk-off single by Micaela Martinez.
“It was two well-played softball games,” GCCC head coach Becky Gundy said. “At the end, in Game 2, we were fortunate we were in the heart of our lineup, and our sophomores did a good job getting on base and scoring a run.”
The split left the Busters at 9-3 overall and 1-1 in the KJCCC. The Mavericks are 3-5 and 1-1.
NWK Tech 1, Garden City 0
Through five innings, the two teams were in a scoreless draw, with neither team getting more than one runner on base in an inning. Neither team managed to get a runner to third.
But in the sixth, the Mavericks’ Kaitlynn Raile singled to left, and a two-base error allowed her to reach third. Akers was able to induce two-consecutive outs, but then a groundball to second resulted in an error, and Raile was able to score what turned out to be the game-winning run.
The Busters got their leadoff hitter on base in the bottom half of the frame, but she was not able to advance past second on three-consecutive outs.
Northwest Tech pitcher Shae Muggrudge then sealed her complete-game effort by striking out the side in the seventh.
“Their pitcher did a great job,” Gundy said. “She was a lefty, and hit her spots. Her and Sam (Akers) did a great job. Hitting-wise, we just didn’t make any adjustments.”
Both teams finished with just two hits — none for extra bases — and Muggrudge and Akers each had eight strikeouts. The difference was the two ill-timed errors.
“It was a good game,” Gundy said. “We just didn’t do what we needed to do to push a run across.”
Garden City 5, NWK Tech 4
In the nightcap, the two teams exchanged rallies. The Mavericks took an early 1-0 lead off Akers — who started Game 2, as well — but the Busters answered with two in the bottom of the second on Devin Hernandez’s ground ball that turned into an error, scoring Angel Jimenez and Hannah Adams. Jimenez reached on a single to left, and Adams walked.
Tech immediately evened it up on Marlena Rubio’s RBI double in the third, off Buster reliever Bailey Brawner, the usual Game 2 starter.
The Busters then took a lead on Erica Vessels RBI single to score Taylore Hartman, who reached on a double to left. Tech tied it up again on a Buster error in the fifth, and the Busters went back ahead in the bottom half of the frame on Jimenez’s single that drove in Vessels.
Once again, Tech tied it on another Rubio double, this time off reliever Ariel Denney. That set up the late-inning heroics, when, with one out, Vessels lined a single to center. Then, Martinez blooped a single to right field, and the fielder bobbled it, allowing the crafty Vessels to round the bases for the game-winner.
Denney got the win, her first of the season, in the relief appearance. She tossed the final two innings, giving up a run on two hits and a walk, while striking out two.
Vessels finished 3 of 4 with two runs scored and an RBI.
But while the win earned the split, there’s still plenty of things to work on, according to Gundy.
“I think there’s definitely some things we need to improve on when we face Colby next Wednesday (2 p.m. first pitch at Colby),” Gundy said.