By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-Erica Vessels and Angel Jimenez both homered, Samantha Akers pitched a complete game, and Garden City narrowly missed a sweep of Barton County, winning game one 7-3 before losing the finale 9-4 Wednesday afternoon at Tangeman Sports Complex.
Jimenez got the party started in the opener, mashing a solo home run in the bottom of the third. Vessels followed two batters later with a blast over the centerfield wall, and Garden City (16-16, 6-8) had a 2-0 advantage. They extended that to 4-0 in the fourth when Jimenez roped a two-out, two-run double to right center.
Barton County (10-14, 7-5) crawled right back in the game in the fifth. Kat Frakes hit an RBI single, and Hailey Pop drilled a two-shot shot to center to pull the Cougars to within one, 4-3.
But if there were any doubts, Garden City quashed them in the sixth.
The Cougars never really threatened in the seventh. Akers got Nasadiya Salazar and Kristin Storer to ground out, and after surrendering a single to Alexis Sharples, Frakes bounced out to first, securing the Broncbusters sixth conference victory of the season.
Akers scattered seven hits in seven innings of work, striking out three. Vessels collected two hits and drove in three runs, Alyssa Dilley was 2-for-4, and Jimenez was 3-for-3 with three RBI.
Allison Panning took the loss for the Cougars, allowing five earned runs in six innings. Sharples had two hits, and Pop knocked in two.
After the Cougars took the lead in the finale on Morgan Michaelis's two-out, RBI single in the first, the Broncbusters answered right back. Vessels doubled to start the bottom half; then scored on Frakes error at first. Three batters later, Bailee Muxlow-Volk hit a sharp single up the middle that plated one, giving Garden City a 2-1 edge.
But the Cougars quickly tied it in the second when Emma Horsch connected on Ariel Denny's breaking ball that landed over the fence in left.
Horsch was not finished, and the Cougars used one big inning to jump in front for good.
With the score still tied in the fourth, the freshman from Lyons, KS went deep again, this time a two-run shot off of Akers that put the Cougars up 4-2. A couple of batters later, Storer hit a two-run homer before Pop doubled home two to make it 8-2.
The Broncbusters got a run back in the fourth when Hernandez stole home; then added another in the sixth on Storer's error in right. In the seventh, Garden City loaded the bases and brought the tying run to the plate. But after fouling off back-to-back pitches, Vessels struck out swinging to end the game.
Denney dropped to 2-4, giving up four runs on six hits in three innings. Akers relieved her in the fourth and yielded five runs on seven hits. Muxlow-Volk went 2-for-4 at the plate.
Horsch pitched a complete game for Barton County, allowing no earned runs in seven innings. She also had three hits and drove in three runs.
Next up: Garden City at Northwest Tech-Saturday, March 31-1 p.m. and 3 p.m.