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Lady Panthers split forces coin flip for regional tourney
spt jm middleton pitch
Great Bend High Schools Hunter Middleton follows through on a pitch against Hutchinson on Thursday evening during a regular season-ending doubleheader. - photo by JIM MISUNAS Great Bend Tribune

HUTCHINSON — Great Bend High School’s softball team’s road to regionals will depend on a three-way coin flip after losing a 4-2 heartbreaker to Hutchinson High. Great Bend won the nightcap 14-9 after nearly losing an 11-run lead.
Great Bend (16-4) and Hutchinson (12-8) head to post-season play Tuesday.
Goddard (20-0) is top-seeded in the eight-team pool. Great Bend, Maize South and Hays High are tied with 16-4 records. A three-way coin flip will determine the second seed and a home site Tuesday. A sweep would’ve assured the Panthers a home regional.
“Now, it comes down to a coin flip, but their pitcher threw well and kept us off balance,” said Great Bend coach Carrie Minton. “That was the first left-handed pitcher we’ve faced. We needed one more hit with a baserunner on base.”
Dakota Sanders drilled two home runs to hand the Panthers a 2-0 lead on Hutchinson’s Kacia Hilty. Sanders’ fourth-inning homer occurred when centerfielder Wessel and rightfielder Mackenzie Reiger collided as she rounded the bases.
Sanders’ sixth-inning homer easily cleared the left-field fence for a 2-0 lead. The Panthers stranded two baserunners in the fifth inning.
Allie Pierce saved the afternoon for Hutchinson High’s softball team. Pierce’s two-run blast salvaged a split for Hutchinson, which won the opener 4-2 in eight innings. Pierce was mobbed by teammates after her homer cleared the left-field fence.
Emily Wessel reached first base on a topped ball with two out off Hunter Middleton (8-3).
“That was a bomb,” said Hutchinson coach Randy Carter.
Pierce’s homer broke up a intense pitchers’ duel between Middleton and Hutchinson’s Hilty, who threw a four-hitter. Hutchinson rallied against Derby in similar fashion last week.
Until that point, the Salthawks managed four hits off Middleton. Hutchinson’s only threat was ruined when Taja Casanova slipped rounding third base and was tagged out by third baseman Regan Unruh after Hilty’s fifth-inning double. Rachael Rivas walked and Casanova pinch ran for her.
Shayla DeGarmo started a sixth-inning rally with a bunt single and stole second base. Izzy Godinez singled DeGarmo home and took second base on the throw. Godinez stole third base and scored on a wild pitch for a 2-2 tie.
Pierce had three base hits.
Great Bend made quick work of second-game starter Casanova with a nine-run first inning. Sanders drilled a two-run double and Middleton and Kaylie Doll delivered two-run singles. Elizabeth Barber and McKenna Mauler also drove in runs.
Panther shortstop McKenna Mauler triggered a pair of double plays, the first to second baseman Tarynn Stueder and the second one a nifty 6-3 double play.
Regan Unruh had three hits and eight batters delivered base hits.
“That’s the type of hitting team we’ve been all year,” Minton said. “It was good to see us get back to that game.”
Finishing the game was a struggle as Hutchinson kept rallying off starter Braylin Bretz. The Salthawks had 20 base hits, but still came up short.
Hutchison was down 14-3, but kept battling with a four-run fifth inning.
The Salthawks crept within 14-9 when Great Bend second baseman Tarynn Stueder gunned down Pierce at home on an attempted double steal. Reliever Middleton struck out Casanova to end the threat.
“We know Hutchinson is a team that will keep battling because that’s their style,” Minton said. “Their batters hit the ball hard into play and they take advantage if you make any mistakes.”

Regular season


At Hutchinson

Great Bend 000 101 00 – 2 4 0
Hutchinson 000 002 02 – 4 9 2
Hunter Middleton and Hannah Mauler. Kacia Hilty and Emily Idler. 2B—GB, H. Mauler; H, Hilty, Idler. HR—GB, Dakota Sanders, 2; H, Allie Pierce.

Great Bend 912 110 0 – 14 16 3
Hutchinson 201 042 0 –  9 20 2
Braylin Bretz, Middleton (6) and H. Mauler. Taja Casanova, Wessel (1) and Idler. 2B—GB, Sanders 2, Regan Unruh; Elizabeth Barber; H, Shayla DeGarmo, Wessel, Pierce. 3B—GB, Kaylie Doll; H, DeGarmo, Wessel.