By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-Through 12 games, the Broncbusters offense has been a breath of fresh air. And believe it or not, it's been spearheaded by two freshman; go figure.
"I wasn't that pleased with game one today," Head Coach Becky Gundy said. "But they really came around in the second game and did what we told them."
In the opener, Vessels got Garden City (8-4) on the board in the second, lacing a two-run shot to give the Broncbusters a 2-0 lead.
"She (Vessels) and Martinez are really comfortable at the plate right now," Gundy said. "That's the good thing about our lineup; these girls don't have to put any pressure on themselves because we have more tools this year."
North Platte (4-8) evened things up in the second when Samantha Gill singled home Samantha Foster and Mikela Cabagua. But the Broncbusters answered back with three in the third when Bailee Muxlow-Volk came around on Taylore Hartman's RBI groundout. Vessels followed with a two-run single, and Garden City had a 5-2 edge.
With a three-run lead in the bottom of the fourth, Martinez smashed a 3-2 pitch over the left-field fence; her fifth homer of the season for a 6-2 advantage.
"Micaela is seeing the ball so well," Gundy said.
After the Knights got a run back in the fifth, Vessels added another RBI when she singled home Rebekah Roberts in the bottom of half; then came around when Martinez grounded out to short.
The Knights made things interesting in the top of the sixth when Alyiah Franco doubled and scored on Foster's RBI single. Three batters later, Erin Renwick's RBI groundout made it 8-6. The rally continued as the Knights put the tying runs on before Samantha Akers got Ana Kaniho to strikeout on five pitches to end the inning.
Any hopes of a North Platte comeback were derailed in the bottom of the sixth when Vessels clubbed her second home run of the day; a three-run shot that gave the Broncbusters an 11-6 cushion.
"Erica is built like a college softball player," Gundy said. "There was one game where she struck out on a bad pitch and then the next time up she hit a home run. That's been her mentality."
Akers allowed six runs, but only three of them were earned after Garden City committed seven errors. She struck out eight and walked three.
"Sam did a good job considering the errors behind her," Gundy said. "She's been consistent."
Erin Renwick took the loss for the Knights, allowing eight earned runs on 15 hits in six innings. She dropped to 1-1.
In game two, Garden City made quick work of North Platte. Shaylene Shepherd's RBI single and Martinez's three-run blast in the first spotted the Broncbusters a 4-0 lead. Then Leisha Nakagawa made it 5-0 in the second when she singled home Roberts.
"After struggling a bit early in the first game, our girls responded really well in the last one," Gundy said. "They played with a lot of confidence."
In the third, Shaycin Koehn scored on a passed ball and Shepherd singled home Roberts and Muxlow-Volk for an 8-0 advantage.
Perea took care of the rest.
The freshman threw a 60-pitch gem, allowing just five hits while striking out four. She retired seven out of the final eight hitters that she faced, inducing the run rule in the fifth for her fourth win of the season.
"I put Desiree in a bad spot yesterday putting her in late in the game," Gundy said with a smile. "I haven't had any luck pulling pitchers in the middle of the game. But she was solid today."
Her counterpart Samantha Foster lasted only two innings, allowing five runs on eight hits.
Next up: Garden City at Frank Phillips-Wednesday, Feb. 22-2 p.m. and 4 p.m.