HHS softball swept by Great Bend
By KLINT SPILLER
It was a bad day for the wind to blow out of the ballpark for the Hays High School softball team.
Great Bend brought in a pair of strong rise ball pitchers, and the 20 to 30 mile-per-hour wind supplied a little extra lift to make it difficult for the Indians.
Great Bend swept the doubleheader 8-2 and 10-1 on Saturday at Dusty Glassman Ball Park, knocking the Indians out of the Western Athletic Conference title hunt.
Hays High dropped to 10-6 and 4-2 in WAC, while the Panthers improved to 15-3 and 7-1.
"We knew coming out that it was going to be a tough day," said Hays High coach Abby Maska.
Great Bend was especially dominant in Game 2 when Panther sophomore pitcher Hunter Middleton compiled 18 strikeouts in seven innings. She allowed just one walk and six hits. The one run she gave up was unearned.
"She has a wicked rise ball," said Hays High junior catcher Haley Wells. "We haven't really seen much of that kind of pitching yet. We've tried preparing for it all week, but her rise ball was so crazy it caught us off guard."
Middleton struck out every Hays High batter at least once. Three Indians struck out three times, and one struck out four times.
"We have a hard time laying off those high balls because they're right at our eye level, which makes it harder to hit," Wells said. "You want to hit it so bad."
Hays High did its best to contain Great Bend's offense, but the Indians' freshmen pitchers got hammered.
Madison Prough (6-4) started Game 1 and threw strikes, but the Panthers punished her for it, producing eight runs off 14 hits, one walk and a hit by pitch. Prough struck out four.
Jenna Luebbers (4-2) started the second game for Hays High but struggled with her control. She walked 10 batters while striking out three. She also surrendered 10 runs, eight earned, off seven hits.
Wells did her best to minimize damage, catching four Panthers stealing -- her career best for a doubleheader.
"I kind of know their speed," Wells said. "They've been pretty fast in past years. I've just got to have a quick release and throw it as hard as I can."
In Game 1, Hays High scored its only runs in the fourth inning when sophomore Kaylie Schoendaller hit a 2-RBI home run to left field that caused Great Bend's outfielders to break the outfield fence chasing after it.
The panel was later removed, so the two squads played with a missing portion of outfield fence for the remainder of Game 1. It was replaced in between games.
In Game 2, senior shortstop Katelyn Schumacher scored her team's only run, reaching base on a botched catch on a pop up by Great Bend catcher Hannah Mauler.
Schumacher stole second, and junior outfielder Julie Balzer drove her home with a single to center field.
Balzer led her squad at the plate, hitting 4 of 5 in the doubleheader, and senior first baseman Shea Briggs was 4 of 8 on the day.
Hays High will finish the regular season with a pair of doubleheaders next week: Garden City on Tuesday at Dusty Glassman Ball Park and Salina Central on Friday on the road.
Maska said her squad needs to finish the season strong in order to maintain a good seed in the regional.
"We've got a really stacked regional," Maska said. "I'm guessing the top four teams aren't going to have very many losses between them. We need to battle it out and try to get that fifth seed."