Two games, and two shutouts, including a no-hitter.
That’s how the Garden City Lady Buffaloes softball team opened its season on Thursday at John Ford Field at the Tangeman Sports Complex.
Junior pitcher Abbie Dart, who is expected to get the bulk of the mound duties this season, went the distance in both games, throwing her no-hitter in the opening game as the Lady Buffs prevailed 6-0.
Things were a bit tougher in the nightcap, as the visiting Lady Monarchs got nearly an equally impressive pitching effort from Bailey Lacy, but it wasn’t enough to offset Dart’s second strong outing of the day, as the Lady Buffs left with a 3-0 victory.
What made the sweep more impressive, at least from the perspective of common opponents, was the Lady Monarchs had swept Dodge City on Tuesday and came in with plenty of momentum.
But Dart had other ideas, and while she was happy to get the pair of W’s, she said she could still improve on her performance.
“I still felt like I could’ve done better,” Dart said afterward. “I was struggling with the curve today. I wasn’t getting around on it.”
Despite getting her third career no-hit game, Dart struggled with her control and it took her 99 pitches to complete her seven-inning stint in the opener.
“I just felt like I was struggling the entire time,” said Dart, who finished with 10 strikeouts and two walks, while also hitting the leadoff batter in the top of the first. “When I needed a pitch, I went with my riser. It’s my best pitch. It’s my favorite pitch. It’s the first pitch I learned to throw. It’s the one I can go to.”
In the second game, Dart was much sharper, throwing just 66 pitches in another seven-inning outing, cutting down on her pitches by a third.
“I got some of the nerves out of the way I think,” Dart said of the second game performance. “I really want to use my defense and feel like I’ve got a great group out there behind me. If they help me, then I help them. I don’t need to get a strikeout of every batter.”
While the Lady Buffs were solid over the two games defensively (two errors in Game 1, none in Game 2), the offense left head coach Trina Moquette knowing there is much work to be done.
They scratched out seven hits in the opener against Alison Helmet and then managed just five hits in the nightcap.
“We did a lot of first pitch swinging, and I just don’t think we ever got settled in (at the plate),” Moquette said afterward. “We weren’t picking the right pitches for the most part. We’ve gotta get back in the batting cage and fix a few things.”
But the Lady Buffs did get enough to take care of business.
In the opener, they struck with a pair of first inning runs, using a TMP error and just one hit to produce the first scores of the season. Dart and Shai Cartmill got RBIs, but neither got a hit. Dart drove in a run on a fly ball to center that was dropped, but would have been a sacrifice fly if caught. Carmel drove her run in with a fielder’s choice to second base.
Haley Saldana had an RBI double to score Dart in the third, and then three more runs came home in the sixth for the Buffs when they had their most productive inning of the day, getting four hits. Cartmill and Morgan Cabral each had an RBI.
In the second game, Dart focused in and was more in control despite yielding three singles over her six-inning outing. Each one of those runners was stranded on the bases.
She finished with nine strikeouts and didn’t walk a batter.
“Abbie wasn’t spot on, but coming out and getting two wins is what we wanted and needed to do,” Moquett said. “But our goals are higher and we’re gonna have to get better.”
The Lady Buffs pushed across two runs in the second inning of the final game, with Cartmill reaching on a two-base throwing error, putting her at third, and then scoring on Kaci Finch’s sacrifice fly to center. Cabral doubled with two outs, went to third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch by Lacy.
An insurance run came home in the sixth when Dart drilled a double to deep right center field, and came home on Cartmill’s RBI single to right.
In addition to her solid outing on the mound, Dart was the team’s most efficient hitter, finishing the twin bill with four hits in seven trips to the plate, including three doubles and a triple.
“My technique at the plate has just gotten better,” Dart explained. “It was nice to get off to a good start with the hitting.”
Carrmill finished the day with three RBIs from her two hits, and the fielder’s choice. Cabral, a sophomore, had an RBI, a double and run scored while Saldana had two hits and an RBI in the opener.
The Lady Buffs will hit the road for their next six games, starting on Tuesday with a doubleheader at Ulysses that begins at 4 p.m. They will follow with away games on April 12 and 15 at Goodland and Clay Center, before returning home on April 19 to face Liberal in their Western Athletic Conference opener.
Garden City 6, TMP-Marian 0
TMP 000 000 0 — 0 0 4
Garden City 201 030 x — 6 7 2
2B—GC (Dart). RBI—GC (Dart 1, Saldana 1, Cartmill 2, Cabral 1). LOB—TMP 5, GC 6.
WP—GC (Dart 1-0), LP—TMP (Helget 1-1).
Garden City 3, TMP-Marian 0
TMP 000 000 0 — 0 3 1
Garden City 020 001 x —3 5 0
2B—GC (Dart 2, Cabral 1). 3B—GC (Dart). LOB—TMP 3, GC 3.
WP—GC (Dart 2-0), LP—TMP (Lacy 1-1).