In a matter of three pitches, the Garden City Community College softball team’s back and forth game with Barton on Friday ended.
With none on and one out in the bottom of the seventh inning of a tie game in the Region VI tournament opener for the Busters and Cougars, Barton’s Hailey Pop singled to right. Two pitches later, Morgan Michaelis sliced a Samantha Akers offering to right-center, and Pop rounded the bases and slid in for the game-ending run in a 5-4 Barton win.
“It was a good softball game,” GCCC head coach Becky Gundy said. “They just did their job when they needed to do it.”
The fifth-seeded Busters (24-27) fall into the loser’s bracket of the double elimination tournament, where they will face Pratt (12-43) at 9 a.m. Saturday. Barton (18-23) advances to the quarterfinals, where the fourth-seeded Cougars will take on top seed Butler at 1 p.m. Saturday. Butler defeated Pratt, 9-1 in five innings, in the tournament opener Friday.
Early nerves may have put the Busters behind at the outset of the game against Barton, as errors by middle infielders Erica Vessels and Hannah Adams allowed the first two Barton batters to reach in the first. Then, Pop singled to left, and a third error allowed both runs to score for a 2-0 Barton lead.
Akers took control from there, though, by getting a pair of strikeouts and a weak grounder back to the circle to end the threat.
And the Busters took the lead with a rally in the top of the second, when Alyssa Dilley singled, and a batter later Adams doubled down the left field line to make it 2-1. Jessy Ortiz then walked, before Vessels struck out.
But Carly Ochoa extended the rally with a two-out single to center to plate Ortiz and Adams.
“I think that helped us out a lot,” Gundy said of the clutch knock. “We got a big hit from Carly, who’s been doing a great job for us, and that got us going a little bit.”
Akers got 1-2-3 innings in each of the second and third frames, before Vessels made it 4-2 with a home run to lead off the fourth. In the fifth, Barton struck back, however, as a pair of singles led off the inning, and then Kat Frakes doubled off Akers to plate both runs and even the score at 4.
Akers finished 6 1/3 innings, giving up eight hits and a walk while striking out six.
The Busters got two on in the sixth, but couldn’t plate a run. Akers got another 1-2-3 inning in the sixth, before the Busters went down in order in the seventh, giving the Cougars the opportunity to win the game with a single run in the seventh, and they took advantage.
“That’s part of (the game),” Gundy said. “It’s one of those situations where you wish you were the home team. We had an opportunity during the regular season to win more games and be the home team, and we weren’t — lesson learned.”
And the lesson stung Friday in the back-and-forth loss.
But now the Busters look to repeat what they accomplished in 2017 — two Saturday wins to advance to Sunday, the final day of the tournament.
“I told them (players), I guess we’ll go about it the way you seemed to want to, and make a day of (Saturday),” Gundy said with a laugh. “We’ll do it your way, and I hope we continue our Day 2 trend at the region tournament where we do pretty well.”
With a win against Pratt Saturday, the Busters would advance to the loser’s bracket quarterfinals at 7 p.m., with the opponent to be determined.