Becky Gundy gave her three-hole hitter, Taylore Hartman a quick shrug and a smirk.
With the bases loaded, and Garden City Community College’s softball team down four runs, it meant one thing: “Go for it.”
Hartman did, turning on the first pitch from Barton’s Emma Horsch and sending it hard to left field. But the ball trailed foul as it bounced off the fence for a harmless strike one. Two pitches later, she popped up.
The Broncbusters’ most prolific run-producer had just missed either extending the rally or tying it up, and the Busters dropped Wednesday’s nightcap, 9-4, themselves just missing a chance to sweep the Cougars, after winning the day’s opener at Tangeman Sports Complex, 7-3.
“That was so frustrating,” Hartman said with a wry laugh, referencing her sixth-inning at bat, which very nearly produced a game-tying rally but ended in disappointment. “I just wanted to hit it so bad, and so it was frustrating to see it hit the fence, but foul.”
The Busters had fallen behind 8-2 and then 8-3, before the sixth inning rally to score a run and load the bases. Hartman, who had not had her usual solid day at the plate, looked at Gundy for some guidance.
“Taylore had been a little bit anxious all day, so we had told her to see a few more pitches,” Gundy said.
But in this situation — with Hartman having four home runs under her belt this season — Gundy told her to go for it with the shrug.
“She just missed that ball,” Gundy said. “I thought it was a good at bat for her. It’s just one of those things.”
The split leaves the Busters at 16-16 overall and 6-8 in the KJCCC, in which they sit alone in fifth place. A sweep would have tied them in the standings with Barton (10-14, 7-5).
“I think that’s the part that we have to understand,” Gundy said. “We can’t put ourselves in that situation. We didn’t do the things we needed to do, so because of that we’re not getting gaining headway. We’re just kinda hanging out in the middle and not gaining any ground.”
The Busters now hit the road to Goodland to take on new conference foe Northwest Kansas Tech at 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday.
Garden City 7, Barton 3
Buster starter Samantha Akers had one subpar inning, giving up a walk, a single and a home run — by Katlyn Frakes — in the fifth inning, and Barton cut into the deficit to make it 4-3. Outside of that one frame, Akers was dominant.
She tossed the complete game, seven-hitter for the win, giving up just those three runs while striking out three.
“Sam pitched well for us and we made the plays behind,” Gundy said. “We were much better in Game 1 with two outs. Two outs has kind of been our Achilles heel for us lately, defensively, and we were much better with that in Game 1.”
The Busters were error-free in the win, and produced three multi-run innings to get the win.
In the third, Angel Jimenez and Erica Vessels each homered to make it 2-0. Jimenez then doubled in two more runs in the fourth to make it 4-0.
After Barton’s one-inning rally, the Busters answered with Jessy Ortiz’s and Vessels’ back-to-back doubles — Ortiz’s brought in one and Vessels two — to reach the final 7-3 margin.
Barton 9, Garden City 4
In the nightcap, it was again one inning that Barton’s offense did most of its damage. But this time, in a six-run fourth, the damage was extensive. A double and a home run — this one by Horsch — began the ill-fated frame, and then a Buster error preceded a strikeout, which was followed by a second home run — off the bat of Kristin Storer.
Then, a single, walk and a double scored two more runs to make it 8-2, and the Busters had a steep uphill climb in front of them. They chipped away at it with a run in the fourth, and another in the sixth, thanks to a couple of Barton errors by right fielder Storer.
Then, an Alyssa Tilley infield single loaded the bases for Hartman with one out, and she nearly tied it. Nearly the key word there.
After her infield pop out, Ariel Denney grounded out to end the threat and the inning.
“I think we’ve just got to start stronger, and we won’t have that problem,” Hartman said of the would-be rally that stalled.
“That’s where we have to understand how important every single game is, every single pitch is, every single at bat,” she said. “We can’t have any letdown.”
Barton added an insurance run in the seventh, and the Busters again loaded the bases in the bottom half of the inning, but Vessels struck out to seal the split.