Softball nabs two, 1-run decisions
There are a lot of different experiences that Trina Moquett has seen during her high school and collegiate softball playing career, then her junior college coaching years and now as head coach at Garden City High School.
But nothing like what transpired late Thursday had ever been placed into her experience portfolio.
What happened was Moquett’s Lady Buffs, trying to stay on pace with rival Dodge City, survived a pair of one-run decisions over Great Bend at John Ford Field at Tangeman Sports Complex.
The first was a 2-1, 9-inning marathon that was almost a copycat of their Tuesday night, 9-inning, 7-5 win over the same Lady Panthers in Great Bend. Then, as if there had not been enough drama in Game 1, the Lady Buffs got a game-winning RBI from Brie Manwarren to lift them to a 10-9 victory in the bottom of the seventh inning to once again win a cardiac arrest Game 2.
So in 48 hours, the Lady Buffs and Panthers played 25 innings, with a four-run differential deciding the three games and all ending in Garden City victories. The twin heart-stoppers improved the Lady Buffs season record to 11-1 and they are now 7-1 in the Western Athletic Conference.
In the opening nail-biter, the Lady Buffs had been frustrated most of the game by leaving runners on base and coming up with only one run through eight innings (11 stranded runners). Meanwhile, sophomore pitcher Brie Manwarren was mowing down the Panther offense to the tune of 17 strikeouts while walking none in a near spotless performance.
Leading 1-0 after an RBI single by Manwarren scored Anjie Serrano in the third, the Buffs saw that slender lead disappear when Great Bend tallied the tying run in the sixth when Grace Rowland reached on an error, stole second, went to third on a passed ball and came home on another throwing miscue.
The score stayed that way through the seventh and eighth innings. Great Bend’s Jordan Turner, meanwhile, had frustrated the Buffs all night with a variety of off-speed pitches, but getting the Buffs to hit fly balls or weak grounders for outs all game.
Finally, though, a crack provided the impetus for the winning run when senior Abby Parr slashed a one-out double just inside the left field foul line. Manwarren was up next and she delivered a 0-1 pitch to left with Parr racing around third and sliding under a near-perfect by catcher Brenna Bownes on a throw from left fielder Halle Post. It was Parr’s nifty slide using her left hand to slide over home plate to just beat the tag.
“Trina (Moquett) goes over those situations with us on how to slide to avoid getting tagged,” an overjoyed and smiling Parr said afterward. “I heard the call, but didn’t hear the ball hit the mitt, so I knew I was safe. But it was pretty close.”
Parr, one of several seniors on this year’s squad, said the resiliency of the Buffs this week has been quite the roller-coaster experience.
“I think we’re just on a high at this point,” Parr said. “Great Bend gave us a good fight in all the games. I think we did a good job of settling our nerves. Even when they tied the game, I think we were poised and prepared. This has done a good job of preparing us for Dodge City next week.”
While the opening game was a low-scoring drama of its own, Game 2 was just the opposite and perhaps it was a combination of Manwarren returning to the mound after a 106-pitch first game effort while Great Bend countered with freshman Paige Thexton throwing for the Panthers and Coach Carrie Minton.
In Game 2, the Lady Buffs took command early with a 5-run uprising in the second, only to have the Panthers push across two runs in their half of the third to cut into the lead. Another two-run inning in the fourth made it 5-4 before the Lady Buffs scored twice in the bottom of the frame, making it 7-4.
The score would only stay that way briefly, as the pesky Panthers wouldn’t go away easily. They scored three more runs in the fifth to tie the score at 7-all. Once more, the Buffs took the lead at 9-7 with a pair of runs in the sixth. It appeared, perhaps, that the momentum had finally swung back to the Buffs as they headed to the seventh with a two-run advantage.
But if nothing else, Great Bend proved there is little difference between the teams. In an effort to give Manwarren a brief breather, Moquett brought in senior Gisselle Gutierrez to pitch the seventh inning. After getting one out, she yielded a double and single that scored one Panther run before Moquett brought Manwarren back to the mound.
She gave up a run-scoring single that tied the game at 9-all but was able to snuff out the potential go-ahead rally with consecutive strikeouts on six pitches with the lead runs on second and third.
That appetizer of six and a half innings was the set-up for the Buffs’ final at-bat.
Jesykah Foster led off by drawing a walk and then stole second. She advanced to third on a ground out by Parr and that brought Manwarren to the plate. The sophomore, who seemingly is in the mix of big things for the Buffs, delivered her second game-winning hit with a single to left to score Foster.
10-9 game over. The roller-coaster, cardiac finishes were finally over and the game ended with only about 10 minutes of sun still in the sky. The first pitch of the doubleheader had come at 4:01 p.m. and the final run crossed home plate at 8:27 p.m.
For her part, Manwarren was just happy to contribute to the team’s winning ways.
“These are the best games to play in because I really do enjoy the pressure situations,” Manwarren said after throwing 102 pitches in the nightcap. She had tossed 136 pitches Tuesday so in the three-game set, she cut loose with 344 pitches. She now sports a 9-0 won-loss record.
“We just back each other up and I think it’s just the confidence we have in each other that helps,” Manwarren said of the dramatic wins this week. “I feel it’s a reward for all the hard work that we’ve done and it’s paying off. We’re playing for the team, and for each other.”
Moquett said that while she hoped she appeared calm on the outside, the stress of so many key innings and plays over the three games was certainly something out of the normal for her.
“It was a combination of my competitive juices just going wild and then the anxious energy I tried to keep under control,” Moquett said trying to explain the up and down emotions of so many big plays. “I was just trying to keep myself calm for the girls. There’s not a letdown with these girls right now. They just don’t give up.”
With so many new faces in the varsity lineup after the absent 2020 season due to COVID-19, Moquett has watched this group of Lady Buffs mature into a cohesive team.
“They’re being selfless and they’ve figured that out,” Moquett said. “That’s way more important than anything else. They’re playing for each other and they’ve shown how to fight through adversity. All three games with Great Bend were such close battles. It just says so much about how special this group is and they’re proving it to me.”
With the theatrics of winning all three games now in the books, the Buffs can turn their attention to next week’s Western Athletic Conference showdown with Dodge City. First, they host Dodge on Tuesday for a doubleheader with the Demons (5-1 in the WAC and 9-1 overall) at 3 p.m. at Tangeman Sports Complex, and then they will travel to Dodge for a single game next Thursday (May 6) at 4 p.m.
“The big thing is that we were able to get these huge wins against Great Bend that now we are in a position to compete for the WAC title with Dodge City next week,” Moquett said. “It’s a much better place to be knowing that we don’t have to sweep all three to win as long as we can take 2 of 3.”
Great Bend 000 001 000 — 1 2 3
Garden City 001 000 001 — 2 8 2
1 out in 9th inning when winning run scored.
GB—J. Turner (L) and Bownes; GC—B. Manwarren (W, 8-0) and Anjie Serrano. 2B—R. McGraw, A. Parr. LOB—Great Bend 3, Garden City 11.
Great Bend 002 230 2 — 9 12 6
Garden City 050 202 1 — 10 11 1
1 out in 7th inning when winning run scored.
GB—P. Thexton (L) and Bownes; GC—Manwarren, Gutierrez (7), Manwarren (W, 9-0) (7) and Anjie Serrano. 2B—GB (Bujanda, Bownes 2, Post); GC (Manwarren, Angel Serrano 2, Gutierrez). LOB—Great Bend 6, Garden City 9.