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Panthers earn All WAC softball honors
Jordan Turner 1A

Great Bend Panther shortstop Sydney Unruh and second baseman/pitcher Paige Thexton earned first-team All-Western Athletic Conference softball honors. The Panthers (7-14, 2-6 WAC) lost 8-0 to Valley Center in 5A regionals.

Unruh was a standout defensive shortstop. She led the Panthers (7-14) with batting average and on-base percentage. Thexton enjoyed a strong freshman season with solid hitting, defensive work and spot pitching. 

Earning second-team honors were pitcher Jordan Turner (4-7), catcher Brenna Bownes and designated player Pamela Bujanda.

Brie Manwarren was voted the Western Athletic Conference Softball Player of the Year by the league’s coaches. Manwarren (16-3, 3.63 ERA) batted .458 and 42 RBIs.

She posted a 16-3 record for a team that finished 19-4 and reached the state 6A tournament for the first time since 2017.

She also hit for a team-high .458 average (for players who played the entire season), compiling 38 hits in 83 at-bats with 11 doubles, 6 triples and a home run while driving in 42 runs and scoring 36. 

Upon learning of the honor, Manwarren was humble and yet pleased of the news.

“It feels very rewarding that all of my hard work in the offseason paid off,” said Manwarren, who credits her teammates and coaches for her success. “We grew as a team as the season progressed, and the high school experience was about what I expected.”

She was a workhorse on the mound for Coach Trina Moquett, throwing 123.1 innings. Her earned-run-average was a solid 3.63 while giving up 97 runs, 64 of which were earned. She issued just 47 walks and struck out 185 for an average of 1.5 strikeouts per inning.

In a lineup that averaged more than .370 for the season, Manwarren batted in the third slot, having many key opportunities to drive in runs as well as hitting in front of teammate Rilee McGraw who provided a lot of power for the Lady Buffaloes.

“With respect to the pitching, I think I improved locating my spots and my change got better,” Manwarren said. “I still have a lot to learn and lot on which I can improve. I need to get a little stronger, get a little more velocity on my pitches and continue to work on location in different areas of the strike zone.”

Adding a screwball late in the season provided Manwarren with an array of pitches to include the fastball, rise, curve, and the change. 

“I need to be more consistent in where I locate the ball,” Manwarren said. “The thing I want to do is to be able to go to any pitch in any situation and know that I can locate it where I want.”

Perhaps mature beyond her years, Manwarren has been playing summer ball and following her sophomore season, was already in full mode of playing with a Kansas City-area team.

“I’ll continue to use the summer to work on a variety of things, but I want to be stronger, gain some muscle and use my body and legs to get that velocity I want,” she said. “I’ve got to be able to get the pitch where I want and when I want it. I can’t leave balls over the plate.”

She was happy with the way her hitting developed during the 2021 campaign, getting many clutch hits that included a .568 batting average when there were runners in scoring position. She had 11 RBI’s when there were two outs in an inning.

Manwarren seemed to thrive in the most clutch situations as the Lady Buffs won six games in the final innings or final at-bats.

“That’s what makes the game fun,” she said of those pressure-packed at-bats. “It’s the time you want to get a hit. There are times you don’t get the hit, but I like the pressure.”

Going back to her middle school seventh-grade year, Manwarren said it had been her long-time goal of doing well in the WAC and reaching the state tournament. Both goals accomplished as the Lady Buffs went 10-2 in the WAC to win the title over Dodge City.

“Our team just really had a great chemistry together,” she said. “I wouldn’t have had the season I did without their help, their support and encouragement. It was just that way for everybody. In our case it really was, “The We, Not Me” philosophy. 

Even though the state tournament was brief, a 13-3 loss to eventual third-place Gardner-Edgerton in the quarterfinals, Manwarren said the experience will be huge in the future for her and her teammates.

“We got to see the top teams, the top pitching and there were a lot of learning moments,” Manwarren said. “It’s still not hitting me that the season is actually over. But it was really one my great experiences playing with this group.”

Manwarren’s coach, who completed her ninth season, said she was not surprised at how well her top pitcher adapted in her first varsity season.

“She realizes how important her teammates are to her and she has a great understanding of what the word team means,” Moquett said of Manwarren. “This team was unique in my experience. No one person got the glory. They were all excited for the success of each other.”

Moquett said she saw a lot of growth and maturity from Manwarren during the season.

“She took the reins and still got a lot of good things from this season and still can grow more in how good she can be,” Moquett said. “She handled a big load for us and that’s a compliment to her.”

The hitting was also an impressive part of Manwarren’s season, Moquett said.

“She was uncanny in her hitting, especially early in the season,” Moquett said. “She came through in a lot of key situations and it shows her work ethic.”


DODGE CITY—P Raemie Lopp, 12; IF Marisela Landa, 11; OF Brittany Lomas, 11; OF Brittany Thomas, 9

GARDEN CITY—C Anjelina Serrano, 12; IF Rilee McGraw, 12; P Brie Manwarren, 10

GREAT BEND—SS Sydney Unruh, 12; 2B Paige Thexton, 9

HAYS HIGH—P Aubree Thomas,9

LIBERAL—IF Millyzient McClure, 12

Player of the Year—Brie Manwarren, Garden City
Coach of the Year—Trina Moquett, Garden City


GARDEN CITY—IF Gisselle Gutierrez, 12; IF Mya Cruz, 12; IF Jesy Foster, 11

HAYS HIGH—DP Brenna Schwien, 11; IF Lakyn Zimmerman, 9

DODGE CITY—OF Easha Potts, 9

GREAT BEND—DP Pamela Bujanda, 12; C Brenna Bownes, 12; P Jordan Turner, 11

LIBERAL—P Jenna Ormiston, 10