Opening-round loss eliminates GCHS from 6A state softball
After owning an early 1-0 lead, having the game tied at 2-all after 2 innings, and then trailing by slim margins of 3-2 and 5-2 after the third and fourth innings, Thursday’s (May 27) quarterfinal Class 6A state softball tournament game seemed primed for one of the Garden City Buffaloes’ famous rallies that was a trademark of the 2021 season.
But this time there were no heroics of big comebacks, home runs, defensive plays to save a run or pitching out of tough jams with opposing hitters on base with potential tying or go-ahead runs.
This time, the Buffs, who had owned six victories in their final at-bat during the magical 2021 spring season, didn’t materialize. Instead, the Buffs saw their hopes for a final day of play dashed in a 13-3, 5-inning run-rule decision against a talented Gardner-Edgerton Trailblazers team.
“We were really right there and in it,” said GCHS Coach Trina Moquett of where her team found itself after the third and fourth innings. “But a couple of key things happened and when they (Gardner-Edgerton) hit it, they hit it hard.”
The Buffs also had a tough time finding their traditional offensive explosion, being limited to just 3 hits, a double by Abby Parr that scored one run, and a pair of singles by Jesy Foster and an RBI one-base hit by Gisselle Gutierrez.
“She (Harley Pruetting, Gardner-Edgerton pitcher) threw pretty well,” Moquett said. “We didn’t get into our normal hitting rhythm. We had a couple of opportunities to score more runs, but we didn’t capitalize on them.”
Sophomore pitcher Brie Manwarren lost for just the third time this season (16-3), while giving up 11 hits, 10 earned runs and striking out four and walking four. Pruetting recorded three strikeouts and issued five walks in picking up the victory.
In the bottom of the first, the Buffs took their only lead of the game when Jesy Foster singled and went to second on an error, advanced to third on a groundout and then scored on a wild pitch.
The Trailblazers responded with two runs in their half of the second before the Buffs scored once in the bottom half of the frame, tying the score at 2-apiece.
Jesy Foster drew a two-out walk and then Parr doubled to deep left center, scoring Foster with the tying run. The knotted score was short-lived, though, as Gardner-Edgerton tallied a single run in the top of the third for a 3-2 lead and then added two more runs in the top of the fourth, making it 5-2.
Still, with the way the Buffs had answered the challenge so many times all season, one could imagine once more that a rally was only a hit or two away from putting them back in the game. But, alas, it didn’t happen.
“There’s a fine line between where we were (after 4 innings) and how the game turned out,” Moquett said. “A couple of things happen differently and we still could have been right in the game with them.”
Gardner-Edgerton put the game out of reach in their half of the fifth with eight runs, sending 12 batters to the plate. The Buffs tacked on one run in the bottom half of the fifth, when Rilee McGraw was hit by a pitch with two outs. She advanced to second on a wild pitch and then Gisselle Gutierrez delivered an RBI single. But they couldn’t get that next run in to extend the game two more innings.
“We know we scored more runs against Gardner-Edgerton than both Topeka and Lawrence-Free State did, but we still would have liked to have had a couple of more innings,” Moquett said.
The Trailblazers (17-4) moved into the Friday semifinals against top-seeded Topeka High and took them to a 1-0 decision before losing. They then defeated 2019 state champion Lawrence-Free State in the third-place consolation game, 2-1.
Other quarterfinal games on Thursday saw Topeka High down Olathe East, 5-0; Lawrence-Free State defeat Olathe South, 6-0, and Olathe North down Topeka-Washburn Rural, 5-2. In the semifinals, Topeka High won the 1-0 nail-biter against Gardner-Edgerton while Olathe North upset Free State, 3-2. In the championship game, Topeka rolled by Olathe North, 7-1, to finish the season unbeaten at 25-0.
Despite the first-round setback, which saw the Buffs finish their season at 19-4, Moquett said it was one of the most rewarding seasons she could remember in both her high school and college coaching career.
“I could not be more proud of this group and their efforts this season,” Moquett said. “The things that this group accomplished together are something to be emulated.”
Moquett recalled that just a few years ago when the majority of this team was playing in 12 and under and 14-and under- games, the only wins were against each other.
“For as far as they have come, and the work ethic they put it, it really says a lot for their character,” Moquett said. “Each and every one of the girls contributed to the team’s success.”
After having lost the 2020 season to the COVID-19 pandemic, Moquett said it was an incredible accomplishment for this group to finish as WAC and Regional 6A champions and compete at the state tournament.
“What a wonderful way for these seniors to go out after losing last season,” Moquett said. “The younger ones have now gotten a taste of what it takes to go to state and the type of competition we will have to face, and I believe this program has a bright future ahead.”
Gardner-Edgerton 021 28 -- 13 11 1
Garden City 110 01 -- 3 3 3
GE—Pruetting (W) and Tribble; GC—Manwarren (L, 16-3) and Anjie Serrano. 2B—GE (Pruetting, Crouch, Garrie); GC (Parr). HR—GE (Trout). Pitches/Strikes—GE (Pruetting 90/51); GC (Manwarren 126/73). LOB—GE 4, GC 4.
Thursday, May 27
Topeka High 5, Olathe East 0
Gardner-Edgerton 13, Garden City 3
Lawrence-Free State 6, Olathe South 0
Olathe North 5, Topeka-Washburn rural 2
Friday, May 28
Topeka High 1, Gardner-Edgerton 0
Olathe North 3, Lawrence-Free State 2
Gardner-Edgerton 2, Lawrence-Free State 1
Topeka High 7, Olathe North 1