Garden City topples Great Bend on the road
There are sometimes pivotal moments in a team’s season, and perhaps Tuesday afternoon in Great Bend, that moment arrived for the Garden City Buffaloes softball squad.
Trailing 5-3 going into their final at-bat in the top of the seventh inning, the Buffs somehow came up with the biggest hits of the mid-season tipping point by scoring two runs to tie the game, send it into extra innings and then scored the game-winning runs in the top of the ninth to head home with a heart-stopping 7-5 victory over the Great Bend Panthers.
Through the many years of the Western Athletic Conference, the title has rested on the outcome of the games between these two programs, and while Dodge City and Hays still figure into the picture, Tuesday’s win was critical for Coach Trina Moquett’s squad.
Not much had gone right for the Buffs as the game see-sawed between the teams. Garden took a 1-0 lead in the first, only to have the Panthers tally twice in the fourth. A two-run fifth put the Buffs back up 3-2 but back came the Panthers with a run in their half of the fifth to knot the score at 3-all.
When Great Bend came to bat in the bottom of the sixth, the Panthers manufactured two runs on just two hits, an error and a passed ball to go up 5-3. That set up the drama in the top of the seventh for the Lady Buffs.
With one out, Brie Manwarren doubled and then with two outs came home on Rilee McGraw’s single, cutting the deficit to 5-4. Senior Gisselle Gutierrez then likely had her biggest career hit when she tripled to right center, scoring McGraw from first to tie the game.
In Great Bend’s last regulation at-bat, Manwarren, who went the distance on the mound for Moquett, issued back-to-back walks with two outs but got Grace Rowland out on three straight strikes to end the potential game-winning threat.
Both teams went down in 1-2-3 order in the eighth inning. In the Buffs’ ninth, Abby Parr led off with a single and stole second. Manwarren then worked her way on via a walk. Mya Cruz singled to load the bases before Parr raced home with the go-ahead run on a wild pitch by reliever Paige Thexton. Manwarren added an insurance run on a fielder’s choice.
Great Bend’s final at-bat was not without its anxious moments for the Buffs, though. Manwarren, who threw 136 pitches, yielded consecutive 1-out singles before inducing a pop-up to short and a flyout to center to end the game.
The victory left Moquett relieved after such a tortuous up and down affair.
“We’d had the bases loaded (2nd inning) and didn’t score,” Moquett said of the early inning struggles. “Then we made a couple of fielding errors to give them some runs. Things weren’t going right, but somehow we showed some great competitive fight and it’s huge to see those kids do this.”
Moquett has watched her team’s progress through the first month and wasn’t sure this would have had the same outcome as recently as a couple weeks earlier.
“I’m not sure we would have stayed as composed then as we did today,” Moquett said. “That’s how far this group has come. The chemistry with this group has made all the difference. They just fought and fought and I’m proud of them for that. It’s just great to see them compete.”
Even on a somewhat off night with her control, Manwarren still came up big at the biggest moments, Moquett said.
“She didn’t have her usual good control, but she sure made the big pitches when we needed them the most,” Moquett offered. “She got those two pop-ups to end the game and that was huge.”
Manwarren finished with 10 strikeouts and 5 walks to improve her season mark to 7-0 and only two of the five runs by Great Bend were earned.
The Buffs jump right back into WAC play Thursday when it’s Great Bend’s turn to come to town for a 3 p.m. doubleheader at Tangeman Sports Complex.
“Got to get ready to take care of things at home,” Moquett said of the return match-up. The Lady Buffs are 5-1 in the WAC and tied for Dodge at the top of the standings and are 9-1 overall. Great Bend fell to 5-5 and 5-7.
Garden City 100 020 202 -- 7 14 5
Great Bend 000 212 000 -- 5 9 2
GC—Manwarren (W, 7-0) and Anjie Serrano; GB—Turner, Thexton (L, 9) and Bownes. 2B—GC (Castro, Manwarren), GB (Bujanda). LOB—GC 10, GB 10.