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Panthers softball celebrates state tourney trip
Panthers will play Spring Hill at 5A state
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The Great Bend softball team celebrates the Panthers' first state trip since 2015. - photo by JIM MISUNAS Great Bend Tribune

BY JIM MISUNAS
jmisunas@gbtribune.com

Great Bend's girls painted a softball masterpiece that was last celebrated in 2015.

The Panthers qualified for the 5A state softball tournament for the 11th time in school history after outlasting Newton 4-3 and Goddard High 5-3 in a pair of high intensity ballgames.

Freshman Camdyn Post delivered the game-winning double for a walkoff victory over Newton. Freshman Kya Behr drilled a 3-run homer and executed a world-class defensive play with a flip to first baseman Alyssa McCauley against Goddard.

Freshman pitcher Chayla Prendergast (11-2, 4.22 ERA) earned victories in both games with a clutch strikeout against Newton and a stressful 7-inning outing against Goddard.

The Panthers improved from an 11-11 record to 22-6.

"It's super exciting. We've talked about how far these seniors have come," said Great Bend coach Carrie Minton. "These girls worked hard and set a great example. They've created a new set of expectations to win ballgames."

All three regional games went down to the final out.

"We knew we'd have to play great softball. Our girls handled it really well," Minton said. "These teams play great softball all year. In 5A, you'll get matched up against solid softball teams." 

The Panthers will play No. 1 seed Spring Hill (26-2) May 23 at the 5A state softball tournament at Wichita State.

PANTHERS 5, GODDARD 3 (G2) — The Panthers were down 2-0 after Prendergast yielded four walks that led to a pair of RBI groundouts.

The Panthers made the Lions pay for back-to-back errors when Behr launched a 3-run third-inning homer that scored Halle Post and Paige Thexton. Behr is batting .521 (49 for 94).

"That's one of my top hits. I had confidence I was going to hit the ball," Behr said. "I knew we'd come back and win this game. Those games are my favorite when we win them." 

Behr made the day's vintage defensive play when she flipped the softball to McCauley on Grace Hembree's hard shot that Prendergast deflected.

Prendergast scored a fourth run on an error after Denver Ringo and McCauley executed perfect fourth-inning bunts. DeShawnna Bryant, batting .493 (41 for 83) hit an RBI single to score Behr for a valuable sixth-inning insurance run.

Bryant tracked down Sariah Potter's fly ball to deep right field for the final out, which ignited a wild celebration.

"I trusted my defense," Prendergast said.

PANTHERS 4, NEWTON 3 (G1) — Thexton sprinted home with the game-winning run on Camdyn Post's line-drive double that snapped a 3-3 seventh-inning tie. The 5-foot-1 Post, a bunting genius, ripped a line drive double to left field. Post is batting .426 (35 for 82).

"I'm trying to crush the ball and get on base," said Post. "Once we knew we'd play regional games at home, it boosted our confidence." 

Prendergast stranded Reese McCord at third base with a called third strike on Abigail Koontz after replacing starter Braelyn Turner (8-4, 3.32 ERA) with two out in the seventh inning.

"It was the change of pace that got me that strikeout," Prendergast said. "I had the right mindset. It's all mental."

Coach Minton said she wanted to put the pressure on Abigail Koontz to see a fresh pitcher. 

"We wanted to change up what she was seeing in that moment," Minton said. "We wanted the batter to see someone new."

Newton's Kenzie Rains drilled a homer and Reece McCord added an RBI double for a 2-0 lead.

Camdyn Post singled home Halle Post and Behr drilled a 2-run homer off Newton pitcher Naomi Koontz for a 3-2 lead.

Newton's Kinlee Unruh scored on Arica Kern's sixth-inning sacrifice fly for a 3-3 tie.

Newton 020 001 0 — 3 6 1 

Great Bend 003 000 1 — 4 8 1 

Naomi Koontz, Abigail Koontz (5), Rose (7) and Kern. Turner, Prendergast (7) and Mazouch. W—Prendergast, 10-2. L—Rose. 2B—GB—Camdyn Post; N—McCord. HR—GB—Behr; N—Rains.

Goddard 011 000 1 — 3 4 4

Great Bend 003 110 x — 5 7 0

Klenda-Lopez and Hembree. Prendergast (7) and Mazouch. W—Prendergast, 11-2. L—Klenda-Lopez. 2B—GB—Behr; G—Hembree. HR—GB—Behr.

5A STATE WICHITA

Spring Hill 26-2 vs. Great Bend 22-6

St. Thomas Aquinas 23-4 vs. KC Piper 20-5 

Maize South 25-3 vs. Topeka Seaman 22-6

Wichita Carroll 24-4 vs. Basehor-Linwood 20-5

FINAL—Maize South 4, Andover Central 0; SEMIFINALS—Maize South 14, Emporia 0; Andover Central 17, Wichita Kapaun Mt. Carmel 4

FINAL—Wichita Carroll 6, Goddard Eisenhower 3; SEMIFINALS Wichita Carroll 3, Andover High 1; Goddard Eisenhower 5, Hays High 2

FINAL—Topeka Seaman 2, Salina South 1; SEMIFINALS—Topeka Seaman 7, Salina Central 1; Salina South 12, Arkansas City 1

FINAL— Great Bend 5, Goddard 3; SEMIFINALS—Goddard 1, Valley Center 0; Great Bend 4, Newton 3