The path to the Class 5A state tournament is finally set for the Great Bend High School softball team.
The Lady Panthers have a familiar foe in the first round on Tuesday as they face Western Athletic Conference Liberal at 4:30 p.m. at Goddard-Eisenhower.
“I don’t think it hurts,” GBHS head coach Carrie Minton said of facing an opponent that her team has seen during the regular season. “It helps. We know what to expect from them.
“A lot of times you’re matched up with teams that you haven’t seen before, so this gives us a chance to prepare. It also gets rid of the uneasiness of the first round a little bit.”
The Lady Panthers swept Liberal, which is 9-11, during the regular season, winning 8-1 in the first game and 17-1 in the second.
The winner on Tuesday will advance to a regional championship game against the winner of the Eisenhower-Wichita West game, which begins at 3 p.m. The championship is set for 6 p.m.
Eisenhower (17-3) is the No. 2 seed of the regional, while West (0-18) is seeded seventh.
“I’m glad that if we win that first game, we play right after that,” Minton said. “We’ve been in situations where you play the first game and sit for a while. You lose some of the momentum. I think it’s nice to go straight into Game 2.”
Great Bend is coming off a split at Hutchinson that closed the regular season, leaving the Lady Panthers at 16-4 overall. The Lady Panthers finished with a 4-0 victory that showcased their defense, including three double plays.
“It was nice that we ended the regular season with a win,” Minton said. “You know, we knew all year long that the last games of the season would be the toughest, and as a team, I thought we played well.
“There were just some plays here and there that cost us the game.”
Those plays have been the subject of discussion during the Lady Panthers’ practice preparing for the postseason.
“We talked about what made us 1-3 instead of 4-0 at the end of the season,” Minton said. “You have to learn something from your losses.”
Minton said her team has seen what it takes to beat strong teams.
“With the last several games, they were against tough competition,” Minton said. “We’ve just been talking about how you have to execute against those teams. Offensively, just getting on base and moving the runners.
“Defensively, just playing whatever situation you have whether it’s a bunt situation or whatever. We just need to focus on getting the easy outs and concentrate on fundamentals.
HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL
Class 5A regional tournament
At Goddard Eisenhower
Goddard Eisenhower (17-3) vs. Wichita West (0-18), 3 p.m.
Great Bend (16-4) vs. Liberal (9-11), 4:30 p.m.
Regional championship, 6 p.m.