Pete Logan
Gardner-Edgerton High School softball senior pitcher Harley Pruetting put on an impressive display last Tuesday night, as she struck out 11 from the pitching circle and also belted a three-run home run to lead the Trailblazers an 11-2 victory over Shawnee Mission Northwest at Gardner-Edgerton District Activities Center.
As a senior, Pruetting has a ton on her plate in the middle of May. However, she was able to push all of those concerns to the back burner as she hurled from the circle.
“It was a struggle,” said Pruetting after the game of all her senior distractions, “but I just keep trying to think how long I’ve been doing this and that I’ve done this before, and I can do it now. Mixing it up (from the circle) is a big thing. If they see you a certain amount of times, and you throw the same things, they’ll end up getting it. So, just mixing it up is what works.”
Pruetting’s stalwart Senior Night started off with a bang, as she struck out two of the first three Northwest batters she faced and retired the top of the Cougar lineup in 1-2-3 order. In the bottom of the inning, senior right fielder – and leadoff hitter – Lily Kepler wasted no time in charging up the offense. Kepler took a 1-2 offering and smashed it to the right field fence for a leadoff triple. Senior shortstop Kaylah Newman followed that at bat by drawing a walk, which was followed by senior 3rd baseman Erin Michael earning a trip to 1st base by being hit by a pitch, loading the bases with zero outs. Two batters later, Trailblazer senior 2nd baseman took a 2-0 pitch and belted it over the SMNW left fielder’s head to score Kepler and Newman with a double. After one inning, the Blazers held a 2-0 lead.
After putting the first two Shawnee Mission Northwest batters on base with walks in the top of the 2nd, Pruetting worked her way out of trouble and struck out the last two batters she faced in the inning. She retired the Cougar batters she faced in the top of the 3rd in 1-2-3 order, again striking out the last two batters of the frame.
GEHS found offense again in the bottom of the 3rd, when Pruetting started off the inning with a walk. Trout followed and belted a 2-1 pitch over the right field wall to put Gardner-Edgerton up 4-0 after three complete.
Northwest put themselves on the board in top of the 4th, when SMNW sophomore outfielder Halley Laurent drilled a double to center that scored two runs and brought the visitors to within 2 at 4-2 after the top of the 4th.
The Trailblazers responded immediately in the bottom half of the inning. GEHS junior catcher Logan Ringel led off the home frame by smacking a triple to left field. Kepler followed and took a 1-0 pitch into right field that scored Ringel and made the score 5-2 after four innings.
The Blazer offense struck again in the bottom of the 5th inning. Senior 1st baseman Ashley Tribble earned a trip to 1st base after being hit by the first pitch of the bottom half of the inning. Gardner-Edgerton freshman Maileigh King subbed in for Tribble on the base paths. Two outs later, Ringel delivered a single to right that placed runners on the corners. During Kepler’s ensuing at bat, Ringel stole 2nd base. While the Northwest catcher attempted to throw Ringel out, King dashed home for the next Trailblazer run, and the home team held a 6-2 advantage after five innings.
The Blazers’ big offensive show of force came in the bottom of the 6th inning. Newman led off for GEHS with an infield single, which was followed by a Michael’s single to left that put runners on 1st and 3rd with no outs. Pruetting was next to bat and clobbered a line drive home run straight over the centerfield fence to put Gardner-Edgerton up 9-2. One out later, Tribble doubled down the left field line. After the Blazers made the 2nd out, senior left fielder Ellie Garrie hit a single to center, then took 2nd when the Cougars unsuccessfully tried to throw out Tribble taking 3rd. Ringel then hit a hard grounder to the Northwest shortstop who overthrew her 1st baseman, sending the ball into the right field foul line fence. Both runners scored, and the Traiblazers led 11-2 after six full innings. Pruetting then retired the next three Shawnee Mission Northwest batters to seal the win for the Blazers.
Before the game, the eight GEHS senior softball players were honored in a ceremony. Speaking after the game, Pruetting talked about what her fellow seniors had meant to her in her softball career.
“I’ve been playing with a lot of these girls outside of high school and in high school for many years,” Pruetting said, “and after losing our sophomore year, this night seems like a really big deal. It’s really awesome. It’s sad but exciting, because we’re all about to start a new chapter in our lives.”
In the circle, Pruetting pitched a complete-game victory by pitching 7 innings, allowing two runs on just two hits, walking 5, and striking out 11.
Offensively, Gardner-Edgerton was led by Trout, who went 2-for-4 with a double, a home run, and 4 RBIs, while Pruetting was 1-for-3 (2-for-4 in plate appearances) with a home run and 3 RBIs. Officially, Newman was 1-for-1 on the day but reached base on all four of her plate appearances, Ringel went 2-for-3 with a triple and was 3-for-4 in PAs, Kepler was 2-for-4 (3-for-5 in PAs) with a triple and 1 RBI, Michael was 1-for-3 and 2-for-4 in PAs, while Tribble was 1-for-3 with a double and was also 2-for-4 in PAs.
Thursday, the Trailblazers finished off their regular season with a pair of victories over Shawnee Heights in a doubleheader, 17-10 and 7-6. The Blazers will host a Regional playoff this week.