Haugsness' 1st career no-hitter, Hodgson's "big" hit lead North Platte softball to share of KCI title

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo North Platte senior Victoria Haugsness delivers a pitch against Hamilton on Thursday, Oct. 1 at Dean Park in Dearborn, Mo. DEARBORN, Mo. — Victoria Haugsness let a shrill scream of excitement escape her lips for the teasing groundout to start the top of the seventh inning.

The North Platte senior didn’t know exactly what was at stake at that point, but after her eighth and final strikeout and a popout to third baseman Alley Rickel, she finally learned exactly what the final three outs meant Thursday, Oct. 1 at Dean Park. In the biggest game of the season to this point, Haugsness threw the first no-hitter of her career, allowing the Panthers enough time to come up with the only run in a 1-0 victory to earn a share of the KCI Conference title.

Haugsness seemed anxious when senior first baseman Mackenzie Daniel fielded the slow roller from Lyndi Heldenbrand and awkwardly flipped to second baseman Callie Pataluna for the out. The nerves and relief didn’t relate to her pursuit of an individual accomplishment.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo North Platte sophomore Gracie Roach makes contact with a pitch during North Platte’s game against Hamilton on Thursday, Oct. 1 at Dean Park in Dearborn, Mo.

“I didn’t even know I had a no-hitter. I just wanted to go win,” said Haugsness, who walked a pair while North Platte played flawless defense behind her. “We didn’t even care about winning conference. We just wanted to win.”

The result remained in doubt all the way to the finish, and in fact, the lead didn’t materialize for North Platte until the bottom of the sixth.

Kaycee Hodgson, the Panthers’ slugging shortstop, led off with a popup cued off the end of the bat that spun dangerously toward the line between the pitcher and first baseman. Hustling the whole way, the senior reached the bag safely, and Heldenbrand — the Hornets’ first baseman — picked the ball up before possibly giving it a chance to roll foul.

“Anything works to get on base,” Hodgson said. “Hey, that’s why you run everything out.”

A groundout moved Hodgson to second, and two batters later, Hamilton second baseman Alexx Angle mishandled Gracie Roach’s popup, allowing the go-ahead run to score. Haugsness made the single tally stand up despite her second walk with two outs in the seventh.

At the start of KCI play last week, Lathrop, Hamilton, Plattsburg and North Platte were tied for first in the standings. North Platte’s win against Hamilton forced a split of the championship between the Panthers and Lathrop. North Platte beat Lathrop 5-3 earlier in the season, and the Panthers’ lone loss in the KCI came last week against Plattsburg.

Last season, a loss to Hamilton forced the Panthers to share the crown, but North Platte has now won three straight KCI titles and four in the past five years.

“All that matters is that we won in the end,” Haugsness said.

The bottom of the third provided a preview of how the game would be decided.

North Platte senior pitcher Victoria Haugsness, right, receives a hug from senior shortstop Kaycee Hodgson following the Panthers' 1-0 victory against Hamilton on Thursday, Oct. 1 at Dean Park in Dearborn, Mo.

Hamilton dropped a pair of popups, allowing North Platte to load the bases with two outs. Haugsness nearly broke the game open against Hamilton lefty Sydney Bottorff, who allowed just four hits, but a hard hit grounder to third base turned into an inning-ending forceout.

Haugsness stayed perfect through 3 2/3 innings before walking McKauley Prothero and then stranding her at second. After the third inning, North Platte didn’t have another runner against Bottorff until Rickel singled with two outs in the fifth.

The next leadoff hit provided the only run, and after two one hitters this season alone, Haugsness grabbed a personal accomplishment to go with the share of the KCI title.

“I’m really proud,” Hodgson said. “She’s my best friend. She does so good. I just love her.”

West Platte finished the regular season at 0-20 after losing its final two conference games to Mid-Buchanan (10-1) and Lathrop (16-2). The Bluejays are scheduled to play Mid-Buchanan again in the first round of the Class 2 District 14 tournament on Wednesday, Oct. 7.

North Platte 13, Maryville 0

Hodgson hit her 12th home run, and the Panthers closed out the regular season with a shutout Monday, Oct. 5 in Maryville, Mo. North Platte enters the postseason with a 23-2 record looking to defend last year’s district title.