HHS softball splits in Garden City
By BRETT MARSHALL
Special to The Hays Daily News
GARDEN CITY -- The Tuesday softball doubleheader at Tangeman Sports Complex between the Hays High Indians and Garden City Buffaloes had numerous implications for league and postseason positioning.
The Buffs needed a sweep to insure a tie with Great Bend for first place in the Western Athletic Conference. The Indians, meanwhile, needed a sweep to finish second, and a sweep in the WAC to Great Bend.
So after a 5-1 dominating win in the opener by the Indians, it seemed only natural coach Abby Maska would implore her team to get a sweep and come home with sole second.
But it wasn't to be as Garden City, in a reversal of fortune, found a way to get to the usually unstoppable Hannah Hearld in the second game, producing a 6-1 triumph which left Garden City in second place, and Hays High in third.
Hearld carved Garden City up with a brilliant 2-hitter, which included five strikeouts and just one walk in the opener.
She had a perfect game through four innings before it was spoiled by an error in the fifth. Another fielding error and the two hits, one a bunt single, erased the no-hit possibility.
"I thought Hannah was her usual self in the first game," Maska said after the twin bill was over. "We played well in the first game, did the things you want to do. We got off to a good start, and then built on it."
Hearld also was a big part of the offense that came up with six hits, two of which were home runs. Hearld's homer to lead off the third upped the lead to 2-0 and then three more runs came home in the fifth, two off Kaylie Schoendaller's two-run blast to center field.
"Hannah's been our big advantage all season," Maska said. "She's the difference between a .500 team and us being 16-4. She's an exceptional hitter, and there have been games where's she's almost done it all."
But things were much different in the second game, as the Buffs came out swinging from the outset. And as sharp as Hearld had been in the opener, she lost it in the second.
By the time Maska came to the mound to remove her and bring in Madison Prough, Garden City had roughed her up for five runs in just an inning and a third.
When asked if there was a bittersweet taste with the twinbill split, Maska was candid in the assessment of the day.
"Anytime you win the first, you want the second one, too," she said. "We struggled in the second, and sometimes we're error-prone like we were today (5 errors in the 2 games). I thought Garden kept the ball in play, and you saw vintage Dusti Befort (former Hays resident) out there in the second game. We'll take the split, and we're glad to have played a quality 6A team just before the playoffs. It's good preparation for us."
Garden City scored three runs off three hits and a pair of Hays errors in the first, tacked on two more off three hits in the second and added a third, and final run, in the third with two more hits.
Hays High touched Befort for one run in the second when Schoendaller singled, went to second on a wild pitch and came home on Prough's RBI single.
The Indians missed golden opportunities to chip away at the Garden City lead, leaving runners on in five innings, including the bases loaded with one out in the fourth. Befort, who had thrown an unsightly 44 pitches in the short stint in the first game, was much sharper in the second. She threw only 87 pitches in the seven-inning complete game victory.
Hearld, meanwhile, threw 99 pitches in the opening complete-game victory, but when she came out in the second, she had already thrown 37 pitches.
"I think what you saw today was two young teams, who will be teams to be reckoned with over the next couple of years," Maska said. "We're not quite mentally where we want to be, but I like how we've played this season."
And what about being 16-4 with such a youthful squad? Could she have imagined that at the start of the season?
"Actually, we're just about where I thought we'd be," Maska said. "The younger girls have come along. Hannah has been a huge part of our season. Other girls have stepped up, and we still have room to improve."
The Indians will now await the regional pairings, which are to be released later this week. Garden City completed its regular season at 12-7 and 6-2.