SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb.— It was quite a ride.
The Barton Community College softball team had a season to remember. But that season came to an end Thursday afternoon at Western Nebraska. Barton, the Region VI champion, was swept by Region IX champion Western Nebraska in District E play.
Western Nebraska swept the best 2-of-3 series pushed back a day due to weather, 6-4 and 7-4. The losses end the Cougars season with a 36-20 record. Western Nebraska, 56-12, moves on to the NJCAA Championships in St. George, Utah.
The loss ends a season that saw Barton improve by 15 wins and capture the region title for the first time in 22 years.
“It was definitely a great year for Barton softball,” Barton assistant coach Anna Voss said. “Nothing for us to hang our heads about. We’re proud of each one of them.
“It came down to hitting. Erica Harper was intentionally getting walked and unfortunately other people were not putting the ball in play.”
Harper got the Cougars on the board in the opening inning of the day with a solo home run well over the fence in left-center field. It was her 25th of the season.
That lead was short-lived as the speed of Western Nebraska came into play early. A walk, single and stolen base was followed by a sacrifice fly to even the score at 1-all.
That is how the game stayed until a big third inning by Western Nebraska. Kenzie Sawyer provided a big blow with a 2-run homer, her 23rd of the season, for a 4-1 lead.
Barton got back into the game in the fourth. Holly Posegate singled then McKenna Mauler and Baylee Bakovich drew back-to-back 1-out walks to load the bases.
With two outs Bailey Hensley hit a slow grounder to short. Bakovich beat the throw to second allowing Posegate to score from third. Mauler never stopped running on the play and beat the throw home to score from second and make it a 4-3 game.
The Cougars were back at it again in the fifth. Harper walked to start the inning and moved to third on a single by Kylie Everill. Posegate evened the game with a single to center.
Western Nebraska answered in the bottom of the fifth. Saywer again provided the big hit with a bases loaded single to center to score a pair and give the host team a 6-4 lead.
A one out error in the seventh allowed Everill to reach and give Barton hope but Andy Hancock retired the next two batters to pick up the win in relief.
Barton again took a 1-0 lead in the opening inning of game two with yet another Harper home run - her 26th. Barton was the home team in game two.
Western Nebraska struck back in the third when Jessica Ball singled in Kelsey Barnhardt. Ball then stole second and scored on a single by Alysa Linford for a 2-1 lead. Western Nebraska had the bases loaded with one out in the inning but Posegate pitched out of the jam.
Barton struck back in the bottom of third, loading the bases with no outs on an error, a Brianna Ward double and a walk to Harper. Everill singled to score Hensley and a Posegate ground out scored Ward to give Barton the lead.
Jenna Hosey singled to score Harper and Barton had its biggest lead of the day, 4-2. Whitney Fields relieved Hancock and got out of the inning with no more damage.
The battle continued as Western Nebraska scored twice in top of the fourth to even the score at 4-all.
Western Nebraska continued to put runs on the board as Sawyer doubled and scored on a close play at the plate in the fifth for a 5-4 lead.
A 2-out error proved costly in the sixth as Western Nebraska made Barton pay by scoring two unearned runs after the miscue to take a 7-4 lead.
In the final inning Barton went down in order to end its season.