In the last four years, the Garden City High School program has gone 68-19.
That means this year’s seniors won 79.3 percent of their games over their four years in the program, and saw two state tournament appearances and a third-place state finish in 2017.
That run came to end Thursday evening in Topeka, where the Buffaloes suffered an 8-4 defeat by the host Trojans.
“It’s a great group,” GCHS head coach Trina Moquett said of seniors Erykah Foster, Taylor Terpstra, Ryleigh Whitehurst, Reagan Nordby, Lauren Koster and Hailey Dart, five of whom have been on the varsity roster all four years in high school. “I’m sad to see that group go. They’ve meant a lot to me over the years.”
When they were sophomores, that group helped the Buffs go 19-6 and finish third in Class 6A.
“As sophomores, they had to step up with Abbie (Dart) and contribute for us to be as successful as we were,” Moquett said.
This year, they were the leaders. They won 11 straight games to begin the season, despite winter weather affecting the amount of practice time the Buffs had on the field.
Then, the spring weather decided to rain on their parade, as well, forcing the postponements and then eventual cancellations of four regular-season games. Likely, the Buffs would have been able to host the postseason regional if not for those cancellations.
Outside of that, though, it's four fewer games Moquett had to coach this group.
“I would have liked to play out those four other games, just to really see where we were at,” Moquett said.
The Buffs outscored opponents 159-66 this year, but being on the western side of the state, they did not have very many chances to meet top competition.
Even in regionals, the Buffs had no trouble with semifinal opponent Wichita South, winning that game 17-0 in just three innings.
Topeka was far and away the best team the Buffs faced this season — and the Buffs were without two-time all-state shortstop and pitcher Yaz Vargas, who was suspended for violation of team rules, forcing the Buffs to play without perhaps their best player.
“We’re going to hold kids no matter who it is,” Moquett said Friday. “(Suspending her) was not even up for debate as far as that goes.”
So in their biggest game of the year, the Buffs were short-handed.
But still, the Buffs went 14-4, right in line with their winning percentage of the last four seasons — led by those seniors.
Hailey Dart, Abbie’s sister, was the No. 1 pitcher this season, going 6-2 with a 2.07 ERA in 50.2 innings pitched — nearly half of their innings pitched this season.
Offensively, 80 of their 124 RBIs this season were produced by seniors, and 92 of their 168 hits.
But where do the Buffs go from here, without that group?
“That’s a good question,” Moquett said. “I kind of had a talk afterwards that some of these younger ones have to step up and take that leadership role. We’re going to have to see some young ones step up and we’ve got some freshmen coming in, too.”
The younger players — including Vargas and breakout slugger Kelbi Richter — have a big hole to fill.
“I could have a little bit of a lull,” Moquett said, “I’m not sure. It could be a down year. We’ll see. Pitching is the name of the game.”
This year, junior Vargas was 4-2 with a 2.05 ERA this year and sophomore Giselle Gutierrez was 2-4 with a 2.33 ERA.
Topeka High jumped on top 3-0 in the first inning, with senior Roni Raines and sophomore Zoe Caryl both reaching base on singles before freshman standout NiJaree Canady doubled home two runs and then Jaryn Benning, a senior, following with another double to score Canady.
The Trojans added two runs in the third and then broke things open with a three-run fourth, highlighted by a bases-loaded double from Caryl, the Trojans' catcher.
Canady, meanwhile, held the Buffs hitless over the first four innings before Garden City (14-4) finally got things going with a three-run fifth, including a triple from junior Kelbi Richter. Garden City added another run in the top of the seventh, but Canady closed things out with a strikeout to touch off a Trojan celebration in the 8-4 win.
“We just had one inning right in the beginning that wasn’t too hot defensively,” Moquett said. “But they didn’t give up.”
Even against an absolutely dominant pitcher in Canady.
“She’s tall,” Moquett said of Canady, who picked up the win. “She don’t look like no freshman.”
That loss proceeded an absolute rout of Wichita South by the Buffs, who racked up 14 hits and seven walks — and Gutierrez tossed three scoreless innings to get the win.
Richter ended up with five RBIs in the win, going 2 for 2 with a triple. Koster, Jasmine Rockwell and Gutierrez all had two RBIs, as well.
Gatehouse Kansas' Rick Peterson contributed to this report.