A year ago, with pitching ace Abbie Dart carrying the flag, the Garden City Buffaloes softball team had its breakthrough at the Class 6A state tournament.
Dart won two of three games over the two days of the state tourney, lifting the Buffs to a third-place finish and winning the first-ever game for GCHS at the event.
But she graduated and is now starring at Tyler (Texas) Junior College. Also gone is Kaci Finch, the team’s leading RBI producer in the 19-6 season under coach Trina Moquett.
The Buffs will see their new-look team on Tuesday when they travel to Goodland for the season opener against the Class 3A Cowgirls, with the first pitch set for 4 p.m.
Yet while those two roster losses will be difficult to replace, Moquett believes the remaining players who are back are ready to produce their own journey.
Six starters return, including the team’s second pitcher a year ago, junior Hailey Dart, Abbie’s younger sister, who fashioned a 7-3 record and a 2.12 earned-run-average.
“Hailey’s a different style of pitcher than Abbie, but she was effective for us last year,” Moquett said of the younger Dart, who will move into the No. 1 pitching slot.
Also back are second baseman Yazmin Vargas, who will move to shortstop and also be the No. 2 pitcher behind Dart. Vargas hit .481 a year ago and was named second team All-State Class 6A and was an all-WAC performer.
The returning cast brings a wealth of experience gained through their success at the state tournament, and Moquett expects that to carry through this season.
“The dynamics of this group is really good,” she said. “We’ve still got talented kids, and I think it shows the growth of the program. I think they feel confident, and we’ve got good team speed, and they know how to win.”
Junior Erykah Foster will be behind the plate to catch, and Taylor Terpstra, another junior, is back at first base. Foster batted .340 and Terpstra .452 with two home runs and 27 RBIs. Two seniors who started a year ago will return, as well, with Laura Farmer (.314/16 RBIs) at third base while Morgan Cabral, who played left field last year, will also roam at center field in some of the games. Another senior, Reigan Crawford, will move to second base.
Junior Ryleigh Whitehurst, who was mostly a designated hitter last season, will switch between right field and second base. When not on the mound, Dart likely will play center field. Junior Laura Koster will play both second base and shortstop, Moquett said. Another junior, Reagan Nordby, likely will see action in right field.
“They saw what it took last year, and I think they will bring that intensity again,” Moquett said. “There’s still a lot of talent, and I think as we move through the season, they’ll get to where we were last year.”
The Buffs will play their home openers on Thursday, with a first pitch at 3 p.m. against TMP-Marian.
Contact Brett Marshall at firstname.lastname@example.org.