Great Bend faced a formidable foe but proved up to the task as the Panthers took a 2-0 sweep over visiting Hutchinson to close out the regular season Thursday. Following a 6-2 victory in game one, the Panthers found themselves in a battle but were able to hold off a Salt Hawk rally late in the game to win the second contest, 2-1.
The Panthers will host Tuesday’s regional at the Great Bend Sports Complex. Final seedings will be determined Saturday.
“Playing an opponent like Hutchinson going into regionals was extremely beneficial to our team,” said coach Carrie Minton. “They are is a great team that we knew would put pressure on us and make us have to put our best foot forward.”
Dakota Sanders hit two for three in the 6-2 series opening win and recorded her sixth season home run. Hannah Honomichl and Morgan Kottas also finished the game at two for three hitting. Kottas collected a pair of RBI, a double and a single in the process.
The Panthers scored in their second offensive showing off an RBI single by Honomichl. The Panthers then tacked on three more runs in the fourth as Honomichl scored on a single by Sanders. Sanders and Carly Dreiling then came across on the first of Kottas’ doubles to give the home team a 4-0 advantage.
Sanders’ two-run shot in the sixth put Great Bend up 6-0 before a two-run seventh by Hutch narrowed the Salt Hawk deficit. Hutchinson was not able to spark any further momentum as the Panthers went on to claim the 6-2 win.
Hunter Middleton worked the first of her two complete game victories striking out five batters.
“Hunter did a great job against their line-up facing them in back-to-back games and taking charge inning by inning,” said Minton. “Behind her our infield stepped up and took away their small ball game.”
In game two, Lauren Welsch’s bat provided the Panthers two runs off an RBI double in the opening inning. Hutch scored once in the sixth but was not able to mount a rally as the Salt Hawks fell in the 2-1 final.
Middleton yielded five hits from the circle in game two while retiring a pair of opposing batters. Her current season strikeout tally is 144. She broke a school record for single season strikeouts in action earlier this week against Thomas More Prep.
“To see our team come together and get a sweep against a quality opponent is a great way to get the momentum going into regional play on Tuesday,” said Minton. “Our team was aggressive at the plate and jumped out to early leads in both games and then they made some tremendous plays to back up Hunter in the circle. We had so many players with great hits and found a way on to the bases and then to have players execute in order to advance the runners was huge,” she said.
Great Bend concludes the regular season with a record of 18-2.