That came in last week’s Class 2 sectional matchup against Sherwood on Wednesday, Oct. 14 — enough to end the Panthers’ shot of a return trip to the Missouri State Softball Championships for a chance at another state trophy, one better than last year’s fourth-place finish. Instead, a standout group of seniors — including pitcher Victoria Haugsness and shortstop Kaycee Hodgson — saw their careers come to an end
North Platte advanced to the playoffs after winning the Class 2 District 14 title for a second straight season. The Panthers ended up in a tie for the KCI Conference championship with Lathrop after Haugsness threw a no-hitter in the league final against Hamilton. They avenged their only KCI loss by defeating Plattsburg 5-2 in the district championship game to earn the spot in the playoffs. Lathrop later beat Sherwood 10-2 in the quarterfinals to advance to the Show-Me Showdown in Springfield, Mo.
“They are upset and they should be upset,” North Platte coach Ron Resler said. “We’re disappointed, but we gave it our best shot.”
North Platte (25-3) managed just four hits against Sherwood junior Abby Atkin, who recorded 14 strikeouts.
For much of the game, Haugsness matched zeroes on the scoreboard until the Lady Marksmen broke through for a run in the fifth. The Panthers’ comeback efforts became more difficult when senior catcher Martina Williams suffered a possible concussion after taking a foul top off of her mask in the top of the sixth inning with North Platte playing as the home team due to the coin flip.
Janell Manville, a freshman, originally replaced Williams before sophomore Alley Rickel took over in the seventh, moving in from third base.
“It was a huge adjustment,” Haugsness said. “I think everyone had to make it, not just me. It was really weird. I just tried to get over it. I was just trying to throw strikes and get outs.”
Haugsness allowed seven hits and three walks to go with six strikeouts.
Sherwood ended up with single scores in the fifth, sixth and seventh. All three runs were manufactured with the final two coming with help from passed balls following the switch at catcher.
Hodgson hit a two-out double in the fourth inning for North Platte, but she ended up stranded at second. The Panthers’ next real chance came with three hits in the bottom of the seventh.
Callie Pataluna reached on a bunt single to lead off the inning, and Hodgson then singled into left field — the final hit of her record-setting season that included 12 home runs. Haugsness came up as the tying run and hit the ball hard to third base, and Sherwood’s third baseman originally bobbled the ball but recovered to force Pataluna out at third.
Manville then loaded the bases after a single into shallow right-center field, but a pair of strikeouts for Akin ended the threat and completed the shutout.
“Hitting is all about timing,” Resler said. “You can get 20 hits and not score a run. You get three people on and get a base hit, that’s what hitting is all about. We went out in style, bases-loaded and one out.”
North Platte’s senior class won 90 games in four seasons compared to just 13 losses. The Panthers went to the playoffs each of the last two years and went 19-2 in 2013 with a loss in the Class 2 District 16 championship game to eventual state champion Bishop LeBlond.