High points dotted the marathon Garden City Community College softball season — a pair of run-rule blowouts of Northwest Kansas Tech at the end of March, a slugfest with two-time Jayhawk Champion Butler just prior to that and a 11-0 whitewashing of conference runner-up Seward County in the middle of April.
Low points also were prevalent, relegating the Broncbusters (25-28, 12-16) to a fifth-place finish in the KJCCC’s top division and an exit from the Region VI tournament after a single win.
But the end of the Busters’ season — which came in Saturday’s 10-3 loss to Colby in the region loss — was still a bitter one for head coach Becky Gundy.
“This was one of my favorite all-time groups to coach,” she said. “They were just a unique bunch. Because of injuries, we had to move some of them around, and we never had any complaints. They just did what they needed to do to help the team.”
Specifically, injuries and attrition wreaked havoc on the middle of the Busters’ lineup this season.
Three of their four best hitters returning from 2017 — sluggers Micaela Martinez, Taylore Hartman and Erica Vessels — hit 3-4-5 in the lineup just once, before Hartman suffered a season-ending injury with 17 games to go. Vessels missed nine games with an injury and Martinez left the team under unknown circumstances, missing the final 27 games of the season.
Combined, that trio hit 28 home runs and 37 doubles and had 128 RBIs in 2017. But by the end of 2018, the Busters had just Vessels in the lineup.
Gundy declined to comment about the reason for Martinez’s absence, but did confirm she was no longer on the team at the end of the season. Attempts to reach Martinez were unsuccessful Tuesday.
Regardless, the Busters missed her pop, and Vessels’ and Hartman’s when they were injured.
Garden City was eighth of eight teams in the KJCCC in batting average (.279) and on-base percentage (.351) and seventh in slugging (.422). Gundy’s Busters maneuvered through it the best they could, winning the second-most games in a season since 2012.
“The biggest thing that helped us was Angel (Jimenez),” Gundy said of her sophomore who filled in at catcher once Hartman went down with the injury. “I can’t say enough about her.
“We knew we would get Erica back at shortstop, but when Taylor went out, it was kind of uh oh.”
The backup catcher was set up to take a red-shirt, and Gundy did not want to burn that in the final third of the season, so she tabbed Jimenez to take over behind the plate.
“Angel had caught bullpens for us, but never in scrimmages,” Gundy said. “Not only did she do the job for us, she was great at it. She threw some runners out, kept them from running on us, and handled our pitching staff.”
She also hit .375 with a .436 OBP, eight home runs and 30 RBIs.
And the other big help was sophomore pitcher Samantha Akers, who threw 175 2/3 of the Busters’ 320 2/3 innings. She was 14-14 with a 3.76 ERA.
And freshmen Ariel Denney (7-7, 4.40 ERA) and Bailey Brawner (2-2, 6.83) had solid outings in the circle for the Busters, as well. But Gundy said she has a large class of incoming freshmen recruits, and seven of those are pitchers.
“Ariel came to us as an infielder, so I’m sure she’d like to see some of those duties pass down to the freshmen,” Gundy said with a laugh.
Also eligible to return for the Busters are utility players Alyssa Dilley (130 at-bats, .215 avg.) and Devin Hernandez (109 at-bats, .257) and infielder Jessy Ortiz (69 at-bats, .256), as well as several other reserves from this year’s squad.