North Platte’s season came to a swift and early end in 2016 — a drastic departure from the norm for the typically dominant program.
While breaking in a new pitcher, the Panthers still managed to go 13-14 with a 3-4 record in the KCI Conference, but the year featured peaks and valleys. They ended up out of the postseason after just one game with a disappointing 4-1 loss to Mid-Buchanan in the first round of Class 2 District 14 play.
District 14 includes six KCI schools, many with strong returners, meaning the schedule will again be difficult for North Platte.
“Lathrop, Lawson, Mid-Buch and Hamilton will make their mark,” North Platte veteran coach Ron Resler said. “No excuses. We played some very good competition, which is good. We hope to do better this season.”
North Platte will have plenty of experience to rely on going into this season.
Alley Rickel, a four-year starter, returns to anchor the top of the lineup after a Missouri State Fastpitch Coaches Association all-region season a year ago. In addition, seniors McKenna Fulton and Gracie Roach bring multiple years of starting experience with Fulton earning all-conference honors in center field as a junior.
Roach will also likely shift to the outfield from second base with junior Janell Manville, an honorable mention All-KCI left fielder.
The lone loss for North Platte will be graduated catcher Kyra Patch, a one-year starter behind the plate who played last season with a torn ACL. Resler plans to shift junior Jordyn Goetz behind the plate, while senior Miranda Daniel (first base) and McKenzie Sams (infield) round out the returning starters in the field.
“I think the strength of any softball program comes down to how strong their pitching is,” Resler said.
Jordyn Smith returns on the mound for her sophomore season after a strong freshman campaign. Ryann Smith, her freshman sister, will provide a second pitching option and will also play in the infield.
In addition, Resler expects juniors Kadilynn Kelley, Brianna Spiers, Jessica Meadows and Brittnie Deppen to push for time and provide North Platte with depth. The Panthers will have five freshmen on the roster.
The seniors were a part of runs to the Class 2 playoffs in both 2014 and 2015 and will have the goal of returning North Platte to its traditional status.