Pitching fueled North Platte’s success for years, but the Panthers have a lot to learn about themselves this year if they plan to go back to the playoffs.
Overall, North Platte lost seven seniors, including five starters, and that contingent includes all-state performers Kaycee Hodgson and Victoria Haugsness, the longtime ace pitcher for the Panthers. With Haugsness gone, North Platte will look to freshman Jordyn Smith to make an immediate impact in the circle.
That won’t be the only key spot to fill.
Haugsness and Hodgson were also the top hitters in the lineup last season. A shortstop, Hodgson hit .506 with a school record 12 home runs to go with 14 doubles and five triples, ending up in the top 10 all-time in numerous categories for a single season in Missouri history.
Haugsness hit .494 with five home runs in addition to her 25 wins and 224 strikeouts in 173 innings of work. She ended up with a 1.21 ERA while walking just 26 batters.
North Platte went to the Class 2 playoffs for a second straight season and finished 25-3 after a sectional loss to Sherwood. The Panthers were also co-champion of the KCI Conference with a 6-1 league record — their second straight conference title.
In addition to Haugsness and Hodgson, catcher Martina Williams and the left side of the infield — second baseman Callie Pataluna and first baseman Mackenze Daniel — will also have to be replaced.
North Platte does return five starters and two other contributors, including junior third baseman Alley Rickel (.390 batting average from the leadoff spot). She was an all-district and All-KCI selection. Gracie Roach and McKenna Fulton — both junior outfielders — were also big contributors.
Kyra Patch, a senior, and sophomores Janelle Manville and Jordyn Goetz will also inherit larger roles.