Trying to match the 1993 team’s accomplishments of capturing the last Region VI title and berth to nationals, the 2015 version of the Barton Community College softball team had its stellar season come short one step away from nationals falling in two games to Western Nebraska Community College Thursday in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, for the District E Championship. Two fifth inning runs proved to be the difference in the Region VI Champions falling 6-4 in the opening best of three series game while five unanswered runs by the Region IX Champions in the final three innings put the Cougars away 7-4 in the nightcap. Winning fifteen more games than the 2014 squad, Barton finishes the season at 36-20 while WNCC improves to 56-12 and 24-0 at home in advancing to the NJCAA Division I National Tournament next week in St. George, Utah.
Region VI MVP and All-American nominee Erica Harper closed out her historic Barton career belting two home runs to lead the nation at 26 as the Topeka, Kansas, native hit near identical first inning two-out solo shots well beyond the 220′ fence in center field.
Following Harper’s first homerun in game one, WNCC answered with one of their own following a one-out single and two steals producing a sacrifice fly to tie it up.
WNCC tacked on three more in the home half of the third getting the spark of a one-out triple by Jessica Ball down the right field line and scoring as the throw came in offline to the cutoff. Two batters later Kenzie Sawyer, who came in with the fourth most homeruns in the nation, added to her total getting her 23rd of the season for a two-run blast to center.
Barton struck back in the top of the fourth getting a Holly Posegate leadoff single followed by consecutive one-out walks by McKenna Mauler and Braydee Bakovich to load the bases. Bailey Hensley grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Posegate but Bakovich beat out the throw into second base as the speedy Mauler was waved home to cut the Barton deficit to one.
Taylor Bugner, who eventually would take the loss, sent WNCC down in order carrying the Cougars momentum to the fifth.
Respected by WNCC for her hitting, Harper was pitched around to open the fifth as the sophomore was walked for her second straight at-bat. Kylie Everill came through fighting off a 0-2 count with a single then Posegate collected her second hit driving home Harper to tie the game.
The deadlocked game was short lived as three straight singles opened up the home half before Sawyer collected the final two of her four RBIs pushing the WNCC lead out to 6-4.
Barton had no answer in the final two innings as reliever Andy Hancock completed the last of her 2.2 innings to earn the victory improving to 21-2 on the season.
A Newman University signee, Bugner closed out her Barton one-year career at 14-10 as the Garden Plain native gave up eleven hits and three walks to go along with five strikeouts.
With Barton becoming the home team in the second game, WNCC mounted a two-out rally but Posegate got out of the two runner jam with a lineout to shortstop.
In an almost identical Cougars first inning, Harper gave Barton the early lift launching her 26th homerun. It would be the last time the Barton record holder would see a decent pitch until her last at-bat coming in the seventh.
WNCC regained the lead in the top of the third getting a leadoff single followed by a sac bunt before Ball’s RBI single. Alysa Linford followed with another RBI single to put WNCC on top 2-1 and threatened even more eventually loading the bases before Posegate struck out the final two batters to limit the damage.
Back came the Cougars in the home half as Hensley reached on an infield and following a Brianna Ward double, Harper was walked to load the bases. Everill again made WNCC pay with an RBI single while Posegate’s groundout added another before Jenna Hosey capped the three-run inning with an RBI single of her own. Mauler then drew a full-count walk to load the bases but just like Posegate did in the top half of the inning, reliever Whitney Fields got the last two outs on strikeouts keeping the Barton lead at 4-2.
The lead was again short-lived as leadoff walk and two one-out singles would push across two WNCC runs to tie it out at four.
WNCC regained the lead in the fifth thanks to a leadoff double, sac bunt, and RBI single then added two more in the sixth as a two-out Barton infield error on a pop-up allowed one run to score with another to follow with an RBI single giving WNCC a three run cushion with six outs left in the Barton season.
Field, who would improve to 14-9 on the season, sent the Cougars down in order in the final six at-bats to clinch the District E Championship.Posegate took the loss finishing her freshman season at 18-8 as Loveland, Colorado, native gave up fifteen hits walking three and striking out three.
WNCC, who pounded out twenty-six hits in the twin bill, limited the Barton bats to only twelve. Posegate collected four of those going 2-4 in each game while Harper, Everill, and Mauler each finished with two each.