The big inning was both a gift and a curse for the Great Bend High School softball team on Tuesday in the Class 5A regional at Harms Field.
The Lady Panthers put up 12 runs in the bottom of the first inning in the semifinal game on their way to a 16-1 victory over Wichita West after three innings, but in the regional championship, it was Valley Center with a seven-run sixth inning that put the game out of reach for Great Bend.
Great Bend head coach Carrie Minton said that it was the difference in pitchers that gave the Lady Panthers some trouble early on in the second game.
“You know, it was tough,” Minton said. “We bunted a lot in the first game to make sure that we didn’t mess up our timing. Coming out, we knew we were going to see a heck of a pitcher from Valley Center, and we did. It took us a couple of innings to get going with the bats, but hitting wise I thought we did OK.
“We did what we needed to do. We got base runners on. We left quite a few runners on.”
The Lady Hornets advanced to the state tournament with a 13-5 win over the Lady Panthers, who conclude this year with a 17-5 record.
“They are really disappointed that this is where it ended, but 17-5 is nothing to hang your head about,” Minton said. “Valley Center is a really good team. We made a lot of errors today, being aggressive or trying to be aggressive. We know that. So we make those errors being aggressive, rather than looking back in hindsight and wishing we would have done things differently.
“We make a few plays here and there and innings turn out very different from what they did.”
In the regional championship, hard-hitting Valley Center was able to amass a 5-0 lead going into the bottom of the third inning with two runs in both of the first two innings and a single run in the top of the third.
Stephanie Morrison drove a liner to left-center field to start the Lady Panthers off in the bottom of the third. Nicole Reiter grounded into a fielder’s choice that left her safe at first with Morrison out at second.
Abby Morrison drove a single that bounced all the way to the fence in left-center field and moved up to second when the Lady Hornets tried and failed to catch Reiter at third.
Jordan Haney, who pitched five and 1/3 innings in the regional championship, struck out, but Lexie Brack drove a ground ball through the gap between third and short stop to drive in a pair of runs.
Valley Center expanded its lead to 6-2 in the top of the fourth inning.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Kaitlee Spray drove in another pair of runs on a single down the left-field line, scoring Abby Morrison and Brack. The two RBIs closed the gap to 6-4 going into the top of the sixth inning.
On four hits and one error, Valley Center totaled seven runs to extend its lead to 13-4.
Jordan Haney, who had one walk and three strikeouts, moved to short stop after one out in the sixth in favor of Abby Morrison on the mound.
The Lady Hornets scored three runs with Abby Morrison on the mound, but she was able to get out of the inning before the run rule went into effect.
Emily Seiwert got the lone RBI in the bottom of the seventh.
“Well there’s nine (seniors). Where to start,” Minton said. “That second game, Abby (Morrison) played behind the plate and was phenomenal behind the plate today. Then we ask her in the sixth inning to jump in on the mound and that takes a lot. Jordan (Haney) threw a good game. She was throwing hard, just struggling a little bit to find the zone, and they were on her.
“Emily Seiwert struggled hitting the last couple of games and came out ready to play. Kaitlee Spray, I mean, you can’t stop. Cassidy Tutak, she came in and pinch-hit and got on base. There wasn’t a senior out there that didn’t step up and do what we’ve asked them to do all year. It’s just that things didn’t come together the way we needed them to.”
Great Bend 16,
Wichita West 1 (3)
The Lady Panthers were able to make short work of the 1-20 Lady Pioneers, driving the run rule into effect after three innings of play.
Even so, Great Bend began the game by falling behind with Wichita West scoring in the first inning when lead-off hitter Aujanae McCoy scored on a throw to second base attempt to catch Staisha Miller stealing.
After that one blemish, the Lady Panthers were able to bat through their line up twice in the bottom of the first inning.
In the bottom of the first inning, Great Bend had three hits while the Lady Pioneers had three errors.
Seiwert finished the inning as the only Great Bend batter to have driven in a run with a hit, though several runs were attributed as RBIs because of walks and hit by pitches.
Abby Morrison pitched all three innings, getting six strikeouts while allowing one hit and no walks.
CLASS 5A REGIONAL SOFTBALL
At Harms Field in Great Bend
Great Bend 16, Wichita West 1 (3)
123 R H E
Wichita West 100 — 1 1 5
Great Bend (12)22 — 16 7 1
Hailey Wright & Aujanae McCoy; Abby Morrison & McKenna Mauler. W — Morrison. L — Wright.
Regional championship game
Valley Center 13, Great Bend 5
123 456 7 R H E
Valley Center 221 107 0 — 13 12 2
Great Bend 002 020 1 — 5 12 5
Perrin Spears & Emily Otte; Jordan Haney & Abby Morrison. W — Spears. L — Haney. 2B — Valley Center (Canaday, Hussey, Mellinger, Sandoval, Otte, Williams).