By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-Despite dropping a pair of conference games to No. 13 and defending national champion Butler, 14-9 and 8-3 on Monday, Becky Gundy's team showed plenty of fight.
In the opener, the Broncbusters found themselves down 9-1 going into the bottom of the fourth before mounting a serious comeback. Bailee Muxlow-Volk knocked in a run, Garden City took advantage of a Butler miscue to score two more, and the Broncbusters were down 9-4.
After the Grizzlies stretched their advantage to 12-4 in the fifth, the Broncbusters answered again with Carly Ochoa's RBI groundout in the bottom half. Butler responded a half inning later when Brianna Robinson crushed a two-run homer off Samantha Akers to put the road squad up 14-5.
That's when the reigning athlete of the week came through in a big way.
Taylore Hartman's two-run bomb in the bottom of the sixth sliced the deficit to seven. It was the second straight series in which the sophomore went deep.
After Akers worked a scoreless seventh, the Broncbusters made the Grizzlies sweat. Jessy Ortiz and Erica Vessels drew bases-loaded walks to make it 14-9, and Garden City (15-15, 5-7) needed just one more batter to reach to bring the tying run to the plate. But Alyssa Dilley struck out swinging, and Hartman grounded into a 6-4 force, ending the Broncbusters comeback bid.
Akers was resilient all day, throwing 161 pitches and striking out eight in the loss. Hartman collected two hits and knocked in two, and Muxlow-Volk went 2-for-4 at the plate.
Kaylee Burnett picked up the win in relief for Butler (23-3, 10-0), who stayed perfect in conference play.
Game two began as a pitcher's duel. Ariel Denney and Maddie Siemer were lights out through the first three innings. But in the top of the fourth, the Grizzlies made their move.
Payton Reynolds drilled a two-run homer, Allison Jurgensen stroked an RBI single; then scored on Dilley's error in left, and Butler had a 5-0 lead. They tacked on three more in the fifth on Alexis Reed's sacrifice fly, and Nancy Wiebe's error in right that allowed two more to cross.
But as they did in the first game, the Broncbusters fought back in the bottom of the fifth. Vessels powered an RBI double to the gap to make it 8-1. In the sixth, Angel Jimenez doubled home Denney, who came through herself in the seventh with a run-scoring single to right to cut the Grizzlies lead to 8-3. But the rally ended when Muxlow-Volk grounded out to second, giving Butler their 57th straight conference victory.
Siemer notched the win for the Grizzlies in the circle, striking out six in four innings. Reynolds and Anngie Salinas each knocked in a pair of runs.
Denney took the loss for Garden City, but only allowed two earned runs in seven innings. She also found her groove at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI.
Next up: Garden City vs. Barton-Wednesday, March 28-2 p.m. and 4 p.m.