GCHS softball takes two from Goodland in opener

GCHS Athletics
Garden City High School's Rilee McGraw rounds third and scores from second base off a double by Kamryn Foster Thursday against Goodland at Tangeman Sports Complex.

With a missing season of 2020, and many new faces dotting the roster and starting lineup, Garden City Buffaloes softball coach Trina Moquett thought she had a read on what her 2021 team might be like.

She got a birds-eye view Thursday at Tangeman Sports Complex when she saw her “new” team dominated Goodland with a doubleheader sweep by scores of 15-5 and 17-3. The second game ended after the visitors’ third out in the top of the fifth due to the 10-run mercy rule after five innings.

Garden City got their fair share of hitting, belting out 13 hits in the opener and nine hits in the early evening nightcap. They got solid pitching, first from senior Gisselle Gutierrez in Game 1 and then from sophomore Brie Manwarren in Game 2. The defense, for the most part, was steady, committing two errors in the first test and three in the second. A gusty day of southerly wind created some havoc in the field for both defenses.

In the opening contest, the Buffs got multi-hit games from Manwarren, Jesykah Foster, Abby Ellerman, Gutierrez and Mya Cruz. Manwarren, who played second base in the first game, went 3-for-4 with 4 RBIs, including a three-run home run in her high school debut.

“I don’t know what kind of pitch I got, but I just swung and tried to hit it hard,” Manwarren said afterward. “I’ve wanted to get a home run the past couple of summers, so this just feels really good to do this in my first high school game.”

Cruz and McGraw each added a pair of RBIs while Ellerman, Gutierrez and Kamryn Foster had single RBIs. GCHS had just two strikeouts in the opener.

“Overall, I thought it was about what I thought we might be capable of,” Moquett said. “We’ve got a number of things, obviously, to work on and improve, but all in all, the girls played well. We’re a little slow in the play-calling (offense and defense), but I think that’s more about missing an entire season and just not having a good feel for that right now.”

Defensively, Moquett said the Buffs did many good things, but also will see areas that need to be refined and improved.

“You never really know what you’re going to get with a lot of new kids out there, but they looked like a softball team and had a good idea of what to do,” she said.

Manwarren, Cruz and Gutierrez all had an extra base-hit double in the game. The Buffs erupted for seven runs in the first, added two in the second, a single run in the third and then tacked on four runs in the fifth when Manwarren unloaded her three-run shot over the right center field fence. Goodland had single runs in the second and fifth that sandwiched a three-run third.

Gutierrez, meanwhile, went the full six innings, giving up 10 hits, five runs, but just two earned, and recorded 10 strikeouts without issuing a walk. She threw 99 pitches, 74 of them for strikes.

“She looked good and had pretty good command of her control,” Moquett said of one of the few returners with varsity experience from the 2019 season. “She kept the ball low and away and I think that’s gonna be her strength.”

In Game 2, the Cowboys struck for two runs in the first inning when the Buffs committed a couple of errors. But the Buffaloes wasted little time in answering, scoring four runs in the first and second frames each, before the teams traded single run innings in the third, making it 9-3. The Buffs put the game away with a 9-run fourth and then held the Cowboys scoreless in the top of the fifth to end the game early.

Ellerman had the big run-production at the plate, driving in five runs while Cruz delivered a two-run home run as part of a 3-for-4 day at the plate. Gutierrez went 2-for-2 as six different batters recorded hits.

On the mound, Manwarren’s debut was rock solid as she matched Gutierrez with 10 strikeouts and no walks. She yielded two hits, three runs of which none were earned in her 5 innings of work. She threw just 67 pitches, 53 of which were strikes.

“I was a bit nervous at first, but once we got into the game, the nerves just went away,” Manwarren said. “I thought I had a good day, and the best pitches for me were my riser and change-up. Still have a few knots to work out, but overall I thought I did ok.”

“It was an impressive start for her,” Moquett said of Manwarren, who likely would have been one of the starters a year ago as a freshman. “She loves the game, she works hard and it and I’m excited to see where she will go with her skills.”

All in all, it was a day that Moquett could take a deep breath and feel positive about her team’s start to a much-anticipated season. One that is full of promise, but also one she knows that her team will need to improve to be competitive down the stretch of April and May.

“We’re not running on all cylinders, but this was a good start,” Moquett said. “I think the more games these girls play, the more confident they will become.”

Next up for Garden City will be a road trip to Wichita on Thursday, April 8. They will face Wichita Heights in the opener and play Wichita South in the second game. The early game is tentatively slated to start at 3 p.m. at Wichita Heights.

Game 1

Goodland 013 010 -- 5 10 5

Garden City 721 041 -- 15 13 2

Goodland—Mitchek (L), Gutierrez (1); GC—Gutierrez (W1-0) and Anjie Serrano. 2B-Garden City (Cruz, Gutierrez, Manwarren); HR-Garden City (Manwarren). SB-Garden City (Parr 2, Gutierrez, Manwarren, J. Foster 2, Ellerman). LOB-Goodland 9, Garden City 6.

Game 2

Goodland 201 00 -- 3 2 6

Garden City 441 8x -- 17 9 3

Goodland-Mitchek, Gutierrez (3); Garden City-Manwarren (W1-0) and Cruz. 2B-Goodland (Biermann); Garden City (Ellerman, Cruz). HR-Garden City (Cruz). SB-Garden City (Manwarren, Parr, J. Foster 2, Gutierrez 2, Cruz). LOB-Goodland 3, Garden City 6.