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Panthers post 3-1 record at Sunflower Classic
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KANSAS CITY— According to John Madden, one knee equals two feet. For the Panther softball team, two Hunters equal one no-hitter. It was a perfect outing from the circle for Hunter Middleton and Hunter Marcum. Throw in a high octane hitting attack by the Panthers and the math adds up 20-0 blowout of Shawnee Mission West in Friday’s opening round of the two-day Sunflower Classic.

Middleton went solo in the second game on Friday, allowing just three hits and retiring 13 batters as Great Bend edged Shawnee Mission South, 3-1.

The Panthers went on to split two games Saturday as Great Bend fell in a 5-3 shaver against Olathe North before a quick recovery and a 5-2 win over Shawnee Mission Northwest to close out tournament play at 3-1.

“Overall, we had a great weekend in Kansas City,” said coach Carrie Minton. “We were able to face some quality opponents and teams that we typically wouldn’t see until post-season rolls around.”

Great Bend made their statement early in Friday’s victory against SMW with a 10-run opening at-bat. The Panthers packed 10 more runs over the next two innings ending the game early on the mercy rule for the 20-0 win.

Middleton worked the first two frames before Marcum came on in the third to finish the game. Middleton allowed a pair of walks but struck out six batters while Marcum recorded one strikeout in the victory.

Regan Unruh (3-3) and Dakota Sanders (2-3) were the leading hitters. Unruh saddled four RBI and scored twice.

Middleton went the distance in the win over SMS with a one-run, three-hit, 13 strikeout finish.

Great Bend lacked the fire power in the second contest with just four hits compared to 12 in the opening game. Sanders, Unruh, Kacee Kasselman and Hannah Honomichl recorded a hit each while Honomichl posted an RBI off a sacrifice bunt. The Panthers scattered their three runs over the final three innings while SMS was held to a one-run seventh.

On Saturday, Great Bend out hit Olathe North by a 6-5 margin. The Panthers coughed up a five-run sixth inning before being shutout in their final at-bat securing the victory for ON. Lauren Welsch led the offensive attack hitting two for three with an RBI and a run scored.

Middelton struggled with a five-run, five walk yield as she shouldered just her second loss of the season. She did post six strikeouts to help keep the game within reach for Great Bend.

In the closing game against SMNW, the Panthers notched a run in their half of the first and third before Northwest tied the game at two in the bottom of the third. Great Bend reeled three runs in the top of the fifth while holding SMNW at bay to claim the 5-2 victory.

Middleton (2-3) and Sanders (2-4) led the attack offensively for Great Bend. Middelton recorded a pair of RBI and a run scored while Sanders scored twice.

The Panthers produced eight hits against Northwest while Middleton allowed just three. Middleton (10-2) struckout nine opposing batters in the victory and tallied 34 strikeouts for the tournament. She is three strikeouts away from reaching the century mark for the season.   

“We played great defense behind our pitchers and they were aggressive at the plate which was great to see” Minton said. “We fought out a great win Saturday having to play through rainy and windy conditions.  Unfortunately in the loss to Olathe North we had a couple of lapses in execution and we gave a great team an opportunity to put up some additional runs,” the coach said.  “We’ll learn from those mistakes and in the long run I believe it will make us a better team as we head into the second half of our schedule.”

Great Bend sits at 10-2 on the season and will return to WAC play on Thursday as the Panthers travel to Garden City for a 4 p.m. doubleheader.