In both games of Thursday’s home doubleheader versus Great Bend, the Garden City Buffaloes flirted with disaster.
They left double-digit runners on base in both ends of the doubleheader and allowed Great Bend several scoring opportunities, but somehow the Buffs found just enough offense and their defense did just enough to get out of innings — until they didn’t.
And the Buffs were undefeated — until they weren’t.
After winning Thursday’s opener 3-1, behind a dominant effort from Hailey Dart in the circle, the Buffs allowed a four-run seventh inning in the nightcap as the Panthers stunned Garden City at home in the 4-3 win.
“We set ourselves up for success, but when you make a couple of errors — it just didn’t roll our way that time,” GCHS head coach Trina Moquett said.
For the first 11 games of the season, everything was rolling right in the Buffs’ direction, as they started 11-0 before falling to 11-1.
They also started 10-0 in 2015 under Moquett, before Great Bend ended that perfect start as well. But after leaving 11 runners on base in Thursday’s opener, they left 11 more on base in the nightcap, keeping a slight opening for the Panthers to strike — which they did in the seventh, getting a one-out single and a one-out double to knock starter Yazmin Vargas out of the game.
Dart came back in after her seven-inning, 10-strikeout performance in the opener, and she induced a ground ball, but her throw to first was wide, allowing two runs to score. On the very next pitch, another ground ball was mishandled by Vargas, allowing another runner to reach.
An RBI groundout drew the Panthers even, before Shailey Clark singled to left-center to put the Panthers on top.
The Buffs’ Richter hit a long fly ball to left in the bottom of the seventh, but it died in the stiff wind, falling into an easy out, before Reagan Nordby reached on a Great Bend error. But Ryleigh Whitehurst flew out to seal the Buffs’ loss, leaving the potential game-tying run on base, which was an issue for the Buffs all day.
“You hate to leave runners on base, but I think the girls are giving their best effort so I’m going to be OK if they swing at a pitch they shouldn’t,” Moquett said.
Vargas went 6 ⅓ innings, giving up just five hits, three walks and two runs with five strikeouts, but Dart took the loss allowing two unearned runs in relief.
In the opener, Dart threw a gem, giving up just one run on two hits and three walks in seven innings, leading the Buffs to the win.
Though, Erykah Foster’s RBI double in the first was all the Buffs’ offense could muster for the first five innings. Great Bend drew even at 1 when Aleah Urban tripled to right field to drive in Alyssa Keller, who had walked to reach.
The Buffs finally found their clutch hit in the sixth. After Vargas singled and Dart walked, Taylor Terpstra moved the duo to second and third with a sacrifice bunt, and Foster singled in one run. Then, Dart scored on a pass ball to make it 3-1.
Dart tossed a 1-2-3 seventh inning to seal that win.
“I thought it was great,” Moquett said of the opening victory. “All the way from the first to the last, we played and did what we needed to do to get the win. I thought we played solid defensively. Pitching-wise, I thought Hailey threw great, and we got the runs where we needed them.”
The Buffs host Dodge City at 3 p.m. Monday for their next action.