It turned out to be their best power display of the high school softball season — thus far.
Samantha Dreiling hit a bases-empty home run in the bottom of the inning, McKenna Mauler crashed a two-run homer in the third and Kelsie Doll added a solo shot in the fourth, as Great Bend pummeled Hutchinson 11-4 in the first game of a doubleheader on Thursday afternoon.
Dreiling now has three homers on the season, and Kelsie Doll and Mauler have two apiece.
“Coming in to the game, I think we had seven home runs on the season, and it was nice to see that they were ready to play,” said Lady Panthers head coach Carrie Minton, whose team closed the regular season with a 17-3 record, her best regular-season mark in three years at the helm. “We just really work with the girls and make sure they are ready to hit, especially when we have runners in scoring position, to be aggressive at the plate.”
After the two teams combined for 21 hits in the opener, including eight for extra bases at the Great Bend Sports Complex, it was a polar-opposite type of game in the nightcap.
Lady Panthers pitcher Hunter Middleton yielded a two-out homer to Sarah Rothe in the top of the first, giving the Salt Hawks a 1-0 lead. After Emily Wessel swatted a single in the second, Middleton bore down and retired 17 of the 18 final batters she faced, while Great Bend scored all five of its runs in the fifth to register a 5-1 victory and complete the sweep in non-conference action.
The lone Hutch baserunner during Middleton’s torrid stretch reached on a Lady Panthers fielding error.
“As the innings progressed, we started to make a little bit better contact and we kept telling our girls to have confidence as they went up to the plate,” said Minton of her team managing only two hits off Hutch pitcher Kacia Hilty through the first four innings — singles by Hannah Mauler and Kaylie Doll.
In the fifth, everything changed, with the Lady Panthers’ Bonny Boultinghouse doubling and Kaylie Doll singling, followed by Stephanie Morrison reaching base on a bunt single and Dreiling knocking in the first run on a fielder’s choice.
McKenna Mauler followed with a two-run single, and Middleton put a lid on the inning with a two-run double for the 5-1 cushion.
“All it was going to take was a few base hits here and there and we would be right back where we wanted to be,” Minton said. “Hunter did a great job out there, too. She kept their batters off-balance and aside from the solo home run, our defense played really well behind her.”
Middleton finished with eight strikeouts, and the Lady Panthers compiled eight hits, with Kaylie Doll going 3-for-3 at the bottom of the order, including a double.
Great Bend 11, Hutchinson 4
In Thursday’s opener, Lady Panthers pitcher Braylin Bretz buckled down after Hutch scored two runs on three hits in the first.
Bretz allowed only three hits through the middle innings before giving up one run on two hits in each of the last two.
“It was a couple miscues that hurt us,” Minton said of Hutch grabbing a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. “That’s what Braylin has done all year. She goes out, works hard and goes after the win.”
Bretz scattered 10 hits in a complete-game victory.
Great Bend totaled 11 hits, led by Dreiling going 3-for-3, Morrison going 2-for-3 and Hannah Mauler finishing 2-for-4. It scored four runs in the sixth, capped by Dakota Sanders’ two-run double.
After finishing the regular season 16-4 the last two seasons, the Lady Panthers have one more victory and one fewer loss entering Class 5A regional play on Tuesday.
“We got over the hump,” Minton said. “We finished the season 17-5 the last two years, so we’re sitting at 17-3 and we feel like our three losses have been to really great teams — losing twice to Maize and once to Garden City.
“Our girls know that they can compete with anybody, as long as they believe in themselves and work hard.”
The Western Athletic Conference co-champions with Garden City, as both teams had 7-1 marks, the Lady Panthers are poised to host a first-round regional game on Tuesday.
HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL
At Great Bend
Great Bend Sports Complex
Great Bend 11, Hutchinson 4
123 456 7 R H E
Hutchinson 200 001 1 — 4 10 4
Great Bend 103 124 x — 11 11 1
Taja Casanova, Emily Wessel (6) & Sarah Rothe; Braylin Bretz & Dakota Sanders. W — Bretz. L — Casanova. 2B — Hutchinson (Megan Hutchinson, Logan Riggs); Great Bend (Stephanie Morrison, Sanders). 3B — Hutch (Kacia Hilty). HR — Great Bend (Samantha Dreiling, McKenna Mauler, Kelsie Doll).
Great Bend 5, Hutchinson 1
123 456 7 R H E
Hutchinson 100 000 0 — 1 2 0
Great Bend 000 050 x — 5 7 1
Kacia Hilty & Sarah Rothe; Hunter Middleton & Hannah Mauler. W — Middleton. L — Hilty. 2B — Great Bend (Bonnie Boultinghouse, Middleton, Kaylie Doll. HR —Hutchinson (Rothe).