SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Fans settled in for a long night after it became clear that the Class 2 third-place game had turned into a pitchers’ duel at Killian Softball Complex in Springfield, Mo. North Platte struck first only to be pegged back and then surpassed in extra innings during a 3-1 loss to Portageville on Oct. 25.
The Bulldogs plated two in the top of the 11th to take the third-place trophy while their pitcher capped a record-setting year. North Platte lost twice in its second trip to the Missouri State Softball Championships semifinals, ending up fourth with a final record of 27-3.
“We had kids that come through all year long,” North Platte coach Ron Resler said. “We won 27 games simply because we put the ball in play when we had to. We got down here … and we didn’t score.”
Portageville pitcher Taylor Tiffany set the single-season strikeout record in the top of the eighth inning. She tied former Missouri Western State University ace Jackie Bishop’s mark that started the season at 380 in the sixth inning and then caught the record West Platte senior Abby Summers set at 382 during the recent Class 2 District 14 championship game in the seventh.
Tiffany further padded her number to 391, striking out nine batters in the four extra frames to finish with 23 overall in the win against North Platte.
“She just kept us off stride, and we couldn’t keep from swinging at the high rise ball,” Resler said. “It was totally way out of the strike zone. It was up around the eyes. We just couldn’t lay off of it.”
North Platte tied for third place in 2005 after rain canceled the consolation game that season. The Panthers were left to seek third again after a 6-0 loss to Fatima in their semifinal, played earlier in the day.
Regan Nash, a speedy centerfielder bound for the University of Missouri, twice found herself in scoring position after a hit against the Comets, but she ended up stranded both times — first as the potential go-ahead run and then as the potential tying run. She reached in the first and sixth inning — the only runners for North Platte against pitcher Leah Kesel until Madison Still’s two-out, pinch-hit single in the seventh.
Fatima took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second and piled on five insurance runs against Panthers starter Victoria Haugsness in the bottom of the sixth, which included a two-run home run for Christine Brunnert and a two-run double for Sammey Bunch.
In the top of the first, Nash led off with a single and went to second on a sacrifice bunt. She didn’t advance from there and wound up stuck on second again in the sixth after her two-out double.
Against Portageville, Nash opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning, scoring from second after tagging up on a fly ball from Kaycee Hodgson. The Panthers did not score again in the next 10 times at bat despite having the potential winning run on third base in the bottom of the seventh inning with one out.
Leftfielder Alley Rickel singled, stole second and advanced to third when the throw trying to nab her bounced into center field with no one covering the bag. Courtney Kipping struck out, and Nash popped up to end the threat.
North Platte didn’t have another runner until a one-out triple from Hodgson in the 11th with the Panthers trailing Portageville (25-7) by two runs after they scored twice in the top of the inning.
“Numerous times we had runners,” Resler said. “If we score a run, the game’s over. We were the home team. We talked after we lost the first game, ‘We need to win third place.’ All the flags and banners we have hanging in our gym are fourth place, fourth place, fourth place. We thought we had a good opportunity to break that.”