Hodgson, Haugsness drives North Platte softball back into playoffs

GOWER, Mo. — Victoria Haugsness might have come out a little too eager to carve out a revenge performance. ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo North Platte seniors Victoria Haugsness, left, and Martina Williams celebrate while holding the Class 2 District 14 championship trophy on Saturday, Oct. 10 at Heritage Park in Gower, Mo.

In the Class 2 District 14 championship game, the Panthers’ star senior pitcher spotted Plattsburg a two-run lead in the top of the first inning, showing obvious displeasure on her way out off the pitching rubber. She did her part in the eventual comeback, crushing a two-run home run to left field in a three-run third. Haugsness only allowed two more runners in the final six innings of a 5-2 win Saturday, Oct. 10 at Heritage Park, avenging a prior loss.

Plattsburg won the regular season matchup between the two teams 5-1, a loss that forced North Platte to share the KCI Conference title with Lathrop and Hamilton.

“I think it made us hungry to win more,” Haugsness said, “definitely made us not take them lightly.”

North Platte’s rally started with a walk from the No. 9 hitter against Plattsburg freshman Dakota Rau. Mackenzie Sams, a freshman right fielder, worked a walk and moved to second on a groundout. With two down, Kaycee Hodgson came to the plate in a key spot, and the Panthers’ slugging shortstop roped an RBI double to left field, cutting the lead in half at 2-1.

Haugsness came up next and blasted the first pitch she saw from Rau over the left field fence.

“Off the bat, that was the sweetest sound you could ever hear. Once you hear it, you know it’s gone, so you’re just running for home plate,” Hodgson said.

North Platte manufactured two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Kyra Patch drove in the first with a ground ball to third base, allowing Gracie Roach to score with an awkward slide ahead of the throw home.

McKenna Fulton scored the second when Plattsburg tried to throw behind pinch runner Janell Manville, a freshman who wandered off second base on Alley Rickel’s groundout to second base.

Haugsness needed to record just three more outs, and she set the Tigers down in order in the seventh, finishing with her ninth strikeout.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo North Platte senior shortstop Kaycee Hodgson, right, throws across the diamond for an out in the Class 2 District 14 championship game on Saturday, Oct. 11 at Heritage Park in Gower, Mo.

Plattsburg took a 2-0 lead on Haugsness, starting with a tough error against second baseman Callie Pataluna on a hot shot from leadoff batter Kelsi Lewis. Three batters later, Lewis scored on a sharp single from Sydney Stephens, and she came around on Haliegh Marchisio’s double smashed to the left-field wall.

Haugsness avoided further damage with a strikeout, and she retired the next five before a two-out single in the third. Plattsburg’s final runner came on a hit by pitch to start the fifth.

“I knew they were going to be tough, but we had a lot of game left,” Haugsness said. “We just had to stay up and stay positive and keep working hard. I think I was a little too anxious, and once everyone kind of settled in, we just went from there.”

North Platte (25-2) was scheduled to play in a Class 2 sectional at Sherwood (21-6). The winner plays Saturday, Oct. 17 in a quarterfinal at a site to be determined based on results. Lathrop (23-3) and Trenton (22-3) match up in the opposite sectional.

Last season, North Platte reached the state semifinals and ended up with a fourth-place finish and the second state trophy in program history. The Panthers have another shot at history, and at least some of the credit goes to a freshman who worked a walk, allowing the third inning to reach the middle of the order.

Hodgson and Haugsness provided the big hits to keep another historic season alive.

“All we needed was to get baserunners on, and we all knew we could get them around the bases,” Hodgson said.

One year after making the district title game, West Platte finished at 0-21 with a 10-1 loss to Mid-Buchanan in the first round, played Wednesday, Oct. 7.