A pair of double plays got Great Bend High School freshman pitcher Hunter Middleton out of jams in the first and second innings of Game 1 of a doubleheader against Garden City on Thursday.
The Lady Panthers swept the Lady Buffaloes, winning the first game 6-2 and the second 5-1 at the City of Great Bend Sports Complex.
With the wins, Great Bend is 15-1 overall, 7-1 in the Western Athletic Conference, meaning that the Lady Panthers are at least co-WAC champions with Hays. If Garden City beats Hays later this season, Great Bend will be the lone champion.
“It is a nice feeling,” GBHS head coach Carrie Minton said. “We were one game out last year. To come back this year and have the girls compete at that level, to me speaks volumes.”
Kennedy Brunson led off the first game with a single for Garden City, but Great Bend first baseman Elizabeth Barber made a diving grab when Syndi Hernandez’s bunt popped up.
“In that first inning, the double play with Elizabeth Barber and the pop-up bunt, I know it was the first inning, but that was a momentum breaker because they had put themselves in a position early in the game to get that first run across the plate,” Minton said. “That was a backbreaker for them. It was one of those things where we showed we’re going to be aggressive defensively, and we were going to try to make plays.”
Barber doubled up, throwing to Tarynn Stueder, who was covering first base.
Barber then led the Panthers offense in the bottom of the first with a three-run double.
Kelsie Doll drove in a run as the Lady Panthers batted through the order to give themselves a 4-0 lead.
A double, a single, a walk, a hit by pitch and an error led to two Lady Buffaloes runs before Middleton was able to get her first strikeout of the game.
Then Brunson lined out to shortstop McKenna Mauler, who ran to third base for an unassisted double play.
“That was huge,” Minton said. “Again, they were in a position to score and McKenna made a tremendous play with the line drive down the third-base line doubling up the runners. It is just one of those things where I say they are really good ball players and they are very smart on the field.”
In the bottom of the second, Stephanie Morrison scored on an error and Mauler drove in Kaylie Doll to give Great Bend a 6-2 lead.
Middleton gave up two runs on four hits, one walk and one hit by pitch. She struck out six batters.
Braylin Bretz took the mound in the second game, striking out two batters and walking one. She scattered six hits.
“We knew Garden coming out was going to be very tough,” Minton said. “We knew they were going to be very aggressive at the plate. They like to play a short game, so we knew that we were going to have to play defensively very well.
“I think our pitchers did very well keeping them a little bit off balance and making them go after a few pitches that maybe they didn’t want to go after.”
In Game 2, the Lady Panthers struck first in the bottom of the first. Freshman catcher Dakota Sanders hit an RBI single to put Great Bend up 1-0.
Morrison, who went 3-for-4 in the game with two RBIs on two doubles and a single, drove in Stueder for a 2-0 Lady Panthers advantage.
Jamie St. Clair drove in Garden City’s only run in the game in the top of the fourth.
Great Bend responded in the bottom of the inning with Stueder scoring on an error and Morrison driving in Samantha Dreiling.
Mauler scored on an error in the fifth inning to make it 5-1.
HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL
Western Athletic Conference
At Great Bend
City of Great Bend Sports Complex
Great Bend 6, Garden City 2
123 456 7 R H E
GCHS 020 000 0 — 2 4 3
GBHS 420 000 x — 6 5 1
Kori Thornton & Alyssa Greenlee; Hunter Middleton & Hannah Mauler. W — Middleton (8-1); L — Thornton. 2B — Garden City: Jennifer St. Clair; Great Bend: Elizabeth Barber, Stephanie Morrison.
Great Bend 5, Garden City 1
123 456 7 R H E
GCHS 000 100 0 — 1 6 2
GBHS 110 210 x — 5 9 1
Leslie Ford & Alyssa Geenlee; Braylin Bretz & Dakota Sanders. W — Bretz (7-0); L — Ford. 2B — Great Bend: Stephanie Morrison (2).