The grind has begun. The grind for the Barton softball team has a variety of games among the six doubleheaders remaining.
Some showdowns will be for the lead in the Jayhawk West. Others, like Wednesday in Liberal, against teams that can’t catch them. Teams that can only spoil their quest for a title.
Barton survived the twinbill at Seward County – a team near the bottom of the conference. Barton rolled to a 21-10 win in the opener then held on for a 6-5 victory to sweep the season series with the Saints. The last play of the day was a play at the plate that preserved the win for the Cougars.
Barton stayed in second place in the conference, 12-2 and one game back of Butler. Colby is still in the title quest as well at 13-3. Barton is now 41-3 overall. Seward falls to 3-11 and 20-26.
The Cougars, ranked 10th this week in the NJCAA poll, blew open the first game against Seward early. Barton scored six in the first and 12 more in the second to build an 18-1 lead. From there, Barton cruised to the 21-10 win.
“The first game we were just too much on offense, pounding out 28 hits,” Coach Marc Benjamin said. “It was good to see everyone in the lineup getting hits.”
The game featured several hitting stars. Jenna Hosey went 4-for-5 with three RBI and three runs. McKenna Mauler hit two home runs and drove in four.
Lili Ertmann was 4-for-5 with three runs scored. Maddison Schofield, Jayden Gonzales, Brittany Wood and Holly Posegate all homered as well.
Despite not having her best stuff, Madison Didion picked up the win, allowing four earned runs to improve to 21-2.
The nightcap had considerably more drama involved.
It was looking like a fairly easy win for the Cougars heading into the final at bat. Barton had scored three times in the sixth to push its lead to 5-1. Kaylie Doll doubled in Ertmann then scored along with Schofield on a Wood double.
Barton put another insurance run on the board in the seventh when Caitlyn Molyneux scored for a 6-1 lead. Barton would eventually need all six of those runs.
“The second game I think we were just too excited and too anxious and we just didn’t manage to get a lot of hits,” Coach Benjamin said. “We did string a nice inning together and then we made it interesting in the bottom of the seventh.”
With one on and two outs, Barton looked to have victory in its grasp but an error kept the inning going. The error was followed by a single then a Kennedy Brunson bases-loaded triple and suddenly it was 6-4.
Brittany Corrales followed with a double to make things very interesting at 6-5 and tying run at second. That tying run was headed home after a Kristyna Garcia single to left.
But Corrales didn’t make it. Wood fired a shot to Ertmann at the plate and gunned down the tying run for the final out of the game and the sweep for Barton.
“It came down to Brittany making an awesome throw to home to throw out the run that would have tied the game,” Coach Benjamin said. “It was good to see us find a way to win the game.”
Posegate went the distance for Barton, allowing five unearned runs to improve to 19-1.
Barton will be at home for the final time this season when Dodge City visits Cougar Fields Saturday afternoon. Dodge City is 6-10 in the West and 14-18 overall. Barton swept the Conquistadors, 5-0 and 14-1 at Dodge earlier this year. First pitch will be at 2 pm.
“The Dodge series is like any other series – we need to play well and limit the mistakes,” Coach Benjamin said. “If we don’t they have a chance to beat us.
“We still have a chance to win the conference but we really need to win every game. Teams like Dodge would like nothing better than to knock off the 10th ranked team.”