Williams, Hodgson help unbeaten North Platte softball outslug rival

  ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo North Platte sophomore third baseman Alley Rickel slides safely into home while West Platte senior catcher Taylor Binkley attempts to apply the tag in a game Thursday, Sept. 10 at Benner Park in Weston, Mo. North Platte won the game 23-5 to move to 8-0 on the season.

WESTON, Mo. — Martina Williams stayed disappointed with the first big hit for North Platte.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo North Platte senior Martina Williams makes contact with a pitch in a game against West Platte on Thursday, Sept. 10 at Benner Park in Weston, Mo.

Given a second chance, the Panthers senior catcher drove a pitch from West Platte starter Lea Moose off the wall in left field — just missing her third home run of the season. Williams went 3-for-4 in North Platte’s 23-5 victory Thursday, Sept. 10 at Benner Park, her two RBIs on a first inning double starting the offensive onslaught.

Still, Williams kept thinking about the missed opportunity.

“It was like 2 inches from going over. Ugh,” she said. “I feel like if we were at home it would’ve went over since our fence is shorter.

“That really upset me.”

The big hits kept coming for North Platte, which improved to 2-0 in KCI Conference play.

Victoria Haugsness added a three-run home run in the second, and senior shortstop Kaycee Hodgson belted a two-run home run to left in the fourth and then a grand slam to center in the fifth. In all, the Panthers recorded 17 hits with 12 players accounting for at least one in the second 15-plus run win against rival West Platte this season.

North Platte reached the Class 2 Missouri State Softball Championships semifinals last season and have started unbeaten this year behind Haugsness, who threw two shutout innings against West Platte before giving way to senior Mackenzie Daniel for the final three. Haugsness earned all-state honors as a junior, but the increased offense — 10 or more runs in five of their first eight games — makes a repeat postseason run look like a possibility.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo North Platte senior Kaycee Hodgson starts to swing at a pitch Thursday, Sept. 10 against West Platte at Benner Park in Weston, Mo.

“Tough to say right now,” said Hodgson, already with seven home runs on the season. “We’ll see if we keep hitting the way that we are. If we do, we might be (a little better than last year).”

Up 1-0 in the first inning, North Platte appeared headed back to the dugout when Williams fouled off a two-pitch strike.

However, the ball dropped between West Platte’s shortstop and left fielder to keep the at-bat alive. Williams followed with a two-run double that hit just below the yellow line in left field. The Panthers ended up with five in the first inning and didn’t look back against winless West Platte.

Callie Pataluna drove in four from the cleanup spot, and McKenna Fulton finished 4-for-4 with two RBIs.

Pataluna’s two-out single in the third came right before Haugsness’ three-run home run to left to put North Platte up 12-0. West Platte scored twice in the bottom of the frame, but Daniel hit an RBI double with Hodgson hitting her first home run in the fourth to extend the lead to 16-2.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo North Platte senior Victoria Haugsness releases a pitch Thursday, Sept. 10 against West Platte at Benner Park in Weston, Mo.

Hodgson’s blast to center field in the fifth capped a seven-run inning that put West Platte down 23-2.

“I’m just aiming for those base hits and trying to help out the team,” Hodgson said. “That (grand slam) felt really good.”

North Platte added a nonconference win against Savannah on Monday, Sept. 14 ahead of a rescheduled matchup with Lafayette, another Midland Empire Conference foe, scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 15. The Panthers were 9-0 entering Tuesday’s matchup with seven games total on the schedule for the week, ending with the Chillicothe Tournament on Saturday.

North Platte 3, Savannah 1

The Panthers scored twice in the top of the sixth to escape with a win Monday, Sept. 14 in Savannah, Mo. Hodgson and Haugsness again led the offense, driving in all three runs. Hodgson went 2-for-3 with a double.