LATHROP, Mo. — With the emotions of a season-ending loss still raw, Kyra Patch — North Platte’s lone senior — decided to open up about her struggles playing catcher this season, even if she tried not to show the pain. She spent the entire season playing with a torn ACL suffered in action with her summer team, an injury that will require reconstructive surgery in the coming weeks.
“I just try to tape it up and do the best I can,” Patch said after the Panthers’ 4-1 loss to Mid-Buchanan in the first round of the Class 2 District 14 tournament Wednesday, Oct. 5 at Lathrop High School. “I hadn’t let it stop me yet. I wasn’t going to skip out on my senior year just because I got injured.”
Coming off back-to-back playoff appearances, North Platte quickly retooled its roster and stayed competitive behind freshman pitcher Jordyn Smith. Patch was one of the players moved around, the lone senior asked to catch due to a lack of other options.
The inconsistencies of inexperience — three other starters were sophomores plus one first-year junior — started to show for the Panthers, who finished 3-4 in KCI Conference play. They lost six of their final six in the regular season and earned the No. 4 seed.
North Platte stranded runners in each of the seven innings, never led and managed its only run on Smith’s bases-loaded RBI single in the bottom of the fifth. Mid-Buchanan pitcher Jaele Barber retired the next two batters, including a line drive to left from sophomore left fielder
Janell Manville, to end the threat and leave the potential tying run at first base.
In a season that featured its share of wild games, North Platte couldn’t muster another big comeback. The Panthers won the first matchup with Mid-Buchanan this season to earn the right to play as the home team but couldn’t replicate the earlier result.
Patch couldn’t hold back the tears after the final out, unable to separate the disappointment of her career ending from the bright future possible for the youthful roster she leaves behind.
“We’ve had a lot of games that we’ve just came into it thinking that we’re going to win,” Patch said. “That was one of them. We just showed up to the field thinking, ‘We’ve beat them once; we can beat them again. That just wasn’t the case.”
North Platte (12-14) couldn’t take advantage of Patch’s one-out single in the first nor junior second baseman Gracie Roach’s leadoff single and sophomore McKenzie Sams’ one-out walk in the second.
Then the mistakes started to pile up. The Panthers dropped a pair of popups on the infield, had a runner doubled off first on a line drive in the fourth and Smith failed to look a runner back to third base in a two-run fifth for the Dragons, who led 4-0 at that point.
In the bottom of the fifth with one, North Platte junior center fielder McKenna Fulton walked, Patch singled and junior shortstop Alley Rickel walked to load the bases. Smith followed with a single that snuck past the Mid-Buchanan second baseman, a weak liner that forced Patch to hold just long enough at second to keep her from scoring.
In the sixth, Sams led off with a single but didn’t move, and Rickel doubled to center to start the seventh and remained stranded there.
“Errors killed us this game,” Patch said, not talking just about the three errors in the field.
Smith struck out three in the first two innings and had two outs in the third before Mid-Buchanan found a way to generate the go-ahead runs.
Brylee Kemper walked and stole two bases, then scored on a 1-foot single in front of home plate from Jill Rumpf. Patch threw down to first on the play but couldn’t get Rumpf, while Kemper ran down the line from third base to score.
A line drive single off of Roach’s glove at second base scored Rumpf before Smith recorded a strikeout for the final out. Smith allowed only two doubles and two runners on errors in the final four innings, but both doubles were in the two-run fifth.
Class 1 District 14
Maysville 10, West Platte 1
The Bluejays’ season came to an end Saturday, Oct. 8 in Pattonsburg, Mo. in a semifinal game started two days earlier.
Maysville — the top seed — took a 2-0 lead in the first inning and never trailed. West Platte’s lone run came in the fifth inning, and Rachel Heili ended up with two of the Bluejays’ five total hits.
West Platte finished 3-16 after going winless in 2015 but loses just four seniors total and only one starter. The Bluejays showed strides this season under first-year head coach Bailee Giger, including the development of freshman pitcher Karah Dunham.
In early August, West Platte won two straight but lost 12 in a row before a district victory advanced them into the matchup with Maysville.
“I am proud of the never quit attitude of these girls,” Giger said. “In the end, we just gave up too many hits and didn’t hit well enough ourselves to make a comeback. Overall, this season is just a stepping stone to future success for our softball program.”
West Platte 6, Pattonsburg 3
Both teams produced run-scoring chances, but the Bluejays capitalized more on RBI opportunities in a first round matchup Wednesday, Oct. 5 in Pattonsburg, Mo.
The district host ended up with more hits (eight) than fifth-seeded West Platte (five), which scored all six runs in the second inning. Lea Moose went 2-for-4 with an RBI single in the second inning, and the Bluejays came back from an early 2-0 deficit before holding on late.
Dunahm went 1-for-1 with two walks and earned the win on the mound, striking out three and issuing no walks.