The Barton Community College softball team rallied for a 5-4 walk-off win Friday afternoon in the opening round of the Region VI Tournament as Morgan Michaelis' double plated Hailey Pop to bounce Garden City Community College to the loser's side of the bracket. The fourth seeded 18-23 Cougars advance to the 1:00 p.m. Saturday game at Dodge City's Legend Park against the top seeded and nation's 4th ranked Grizzlies of Butler Community College who improved to 45-4 on the season with a 9-1 five inning opening game over Pratt Community College. Garden City and Pratt will meet in an elimination game set for 9:00 a.m. Saturday.
The Cougars took advantage of a generous Garden City defense to jump out to a two run lead in the first inning. Alexis Sharples and Kat Frakes each reached on infield miscues, scoring on Pop's hard line drive to left field that skipped off the outfielder to the fence. Andreana Reynolds' one-out single put runners at the corners but the Cougars left the pair stranded as Samantha Akers struck out her second of the inning before inducing a comebacker to escape further damage.
Garden City quickly fired back in the ensuing inning, beginning with Alyssa Dilley's single sacrificed to second before Hannah Adams double down the left field line cut the deficit in half. Following a walk and ground out, Carly Ochoa put the Busters out front with a two RBI single to center.
Erica Vessels added another run to the Garden City advantage, leading off the fourth with her 12th home run of the season sending a blast against the wind to deep left field.
The Cougars were quiet through their next three frames at-bat, managing just a Maggie Schuetz single in the fourth inning.
Coming up big in multiple games this season, No. 9 hole Kristin Storer gave Barton some life in leading off the fifth with a liner to center. One pitch later the Cougars had runners at the corners as Sharples' single up the middle found the outfield grass. Having made two stellar defensive plays, the first on a full laid-out diving catch on a foul ball in the first inning and scooping an inning ending throw in the fourth, Frakes came through on the offensive side to drill her 20th double of the year to the left center gap to tie the game at four. Pop followed with a walk and Schuetz reached on a two-out hit-by-pitch but the Cougars stranded the sacks full for the second time in keeping the game deadlocked.
The Busters threatened to regain the lead in the sixth, stringing a two-out walk and single but Emma Horsch slammed the door shut getting her second strikeout of the inning and fourth of the game to end the threat.
A quick home half of the sixth and top of the seventh ensued as both team went down in order.
Pop collected her second hit of the game to lead the Cougars' eight hits, lacing up the track shoes to spin around the bases as Michaelis sent a liner to right center for her 8th double of the year. Being waved around third and heading for home, the Busters throw to the plate was cut short as Pop slid across for the game winning dish toucher.
Horsch bear downed to earn the win improving to 9-11 on the year as the former Sterling High School product showed off her tough competitiveness returning to the circle after a car accident earlier in the week.
Named to the 2nd team of the All-Conference selections, Frakes' fifth inning double moved the Topeka sophomore into sole possession of the 5th best single season performance. Frakes was joined on the conference list by Michaelis who was named honorable mention.
With Barton's come-from-behind win, the opening round went as expected as 2nd seeded Seward County defeated 7th seeded Dodge City 6-4 and 3rd seeded Colby pulled out a 1-0 win over 6th seeded Northwest Kansas Technical on a walk-off two-out solo home run.