BY JIM MISUNAS
Great Bend’s softball team trailed Hays Thomas More Prep 7-5 Friday when momentum swung the Panthers’ way.
DeShawna Bryant ripped a 3-run homer to cap a 9-run fifth inning that was triggered by four walks and a critical error. The Panthers’ 14-7 victory clinched a 5A postseason berth Wednesday against defending state champion Wichita Carroll (20-0). The Eagles own 14 state softball titles and have won 43 consecutive games since losing 12-1 to Shawnee Heights in the 2019 state finals.
“It was good to see us pull a game out,” said Great Bend coach Carrie Minton. “It’s nice to finally get a win on our home field. We’ve played close games and a play here-or-there has cost us. The girls have worked hard all year. They’ve been resilient and continued to improve. They’ve stuck together. They’ve had each other’s backs.”
Losses against Western Athletic champion Garden City 4-0 and 3-2 in 15 innings April 28 showed the Panthers they could compete.
“Those games gave us a confidence boost and proved that their hard work is paying off,” Minton said. “We’ve played a tough schedule.”
PANTHERS 14, MONARCHS 7 (G1) -- Great Bend (3-17) passed Salina Central (2-18) for the final West postseason bid with a 9-run inning. The Monarchs led 7-5 when Analiz Rivas reached base on a 1-out error. Brooke McReynolds and Bre Ridgeway delivered 2-run hits and Bryant’s homer drove home birthday girl Rylee Prilling and Paige Thexton for a 14-7 lead.
Pitcher Jordan Turner (3-8) shut out the Monarchs in the final three innings. Turner caught a liner by Hannah Garcia for a double play. Shortstop Thexton turned a Alexa Ryersee groundball into a game-ending double play.
Prilling, Ridgeway and Rivas each doubled. McReynolds drove home three runs. Eight of nine players scored a run or drove home a run.
Monarch Juliana Baalmann drove in two runs.
MONARCHS 4, PANTHERS 2 (G2) – Monarch shortstop Jaci VonLintel and third baseman Brooke Koenigsman combined for 12 outs as Monarch pitcher Madison Augustine benefited from solid defense. Augustine retired 13 of the final 15 Panther batters.
“They made great defensive plays,” Minton said.
Rivas and Ridgeway delivered RBIs in the first two innings, and doubles by Thexton, Taylor Lashley and Rivas helped produce two runs. Panther pitcher Thexton yielded four runs. Catcher Lauryn Davis and right fielder McReynolds made highlight-reel catches. Shortstop Ridgway played a solid game.
Ryersee hit an RBI single in the fourth inning. Koeningman’s 2-run double gave the Monarchs a 3-2 lead. She scored on a Ryersee single for a 4-2 lead in the fifth inning off pitcher Thexton (0-9).
Hays TMP 033 100 0 – 7 8 2
Great Bend 203 090 x – 14 9 5
Augustine and Ryersee. Turner and Davis. W—Turner, 3-8. L—Augustine. 2B—GB—Prilling, Ridgeway, Rivas; TMP—Baalmann. . HR—GB—Bryant; TMP–VonLintel.
Hays TMP 000 130 0 — 4 7 0
Great Bend 110 000 0 – 2 4 2
Augustine and Ryersee. Thexton and Davis. W—Augustine. L—Thexton, 0-9. 2B—GB—Thexton, Rivas, Lashley.
WEDNESDAY—1 Wichita Carroll 20-0 vs. 16 Great Bend 3-17, 3:30; 8 Salina South 10-10 vs. 9 Maize South 10-10, 2
WEDNESDAY—2 Newton 18-2 vs. 15 Maize High 5-13; 7 Hays 13-7 vs. 10 Andover Central 9-11
TUESDAY—3 Valley Center 18-2 vs. 14 Arkansas City 6-14; 6 Wichita Kapaun Mt. Carmel 13-7 vs. 11 Emporia 8-12
WEDNESDAY—4 Goddard Eisenhower 14-6 vs. 13 Topeka West 6-14; 5 Goddard 12-6 vs. 12 Andover High 8-12