DEARBORN, Mo. — When Jordyn Smith suddenly hit a rough patch, North Platte’s lineup decided to pick up the freshman pitcher.
The Panthers were slowly scratching runs across in a KCI Conference game with West Platte on Thursday, Sept. 8 at Dean Park when the Bluejays struck for two runs in the top of the fourth inning. Smith worked out of a jam to prevent more damage, and North Platte immediately answered back with its only big inning on the way to an 8-3 victory.
Miranda Daniel, McKenzie Sams, Janell Manville and Jordyn Goetz provided big contributions from the bottom of the lineup, helping North Platte score in each of the first four innings. The Panthers’ lower third started and ended a five-run rally in the bottom of the fifth to put West Platte away.
“If just the top hits, it’s kind of leading us nowhere,” North Platte junior shortstop Alley Rickel said. “Hitting throughout the whole lineup is going to help us throughout the season. We have to definitely work hard to still be behind (Smith) and help her out.”
North Platte scored one in each of the first three innings to take a 3-0 lead.
Coming off a winless 2015 season, West Platte started a rally to threaten the advantage in the top of the fourth. Lea Moose singled to right field, and Alyssa Knox reached on a well-placed ground ball that stayed on the muddy infield. Smith then threw wildly to third on a ground ball trying to cut down the lead runner, allowing Moose to score the Bluejays’ first run.
West Platte still had first and third with none out when Rachel Heili hit a single. However, after a sac bunt, Smith escaped the jam with the lead still intact and didn’t allow another run until the seventh.
Still, the results were encouraging for West Platte after a recent two-game win streak. Bluejays first-year coach Bailee Giger said the team can’t talk about last year unless the players want to run until they forget about the disappointing season.
“I was excited to see that (big inning),” she said. “Obviously, I wish it would happen more as we go on in the game, but this team doesn’t quit. I’m really excited to have these girls. They trust me, and I trust them to make the plays. They’ve definitely grown.”
West Platte made a big mistake to aid North Platte’s big inning.
Manville tripled to left field to start the inning, and Goetz, McKenna Fulton and Kyra Patch each singled to increase the lead to 4-2 and load the bases. Rickel, who tripled in the sixth but didn’t score, plated a run with a groundout, and Karah Dunham — the Bluejays’ freshman pitcher — then struck out Smith with a ball in the dirt.
West Platte catcher Sikoya Richard didn’t throw down to first to complete the out, and instead of second and third with two outs, North Platte loaded the bases with one out. Daniel made the extra out count, plating two more with a two-run single.
The five-run inning allowed North Platte to keep up its dominance of its biggest rival in a season that’s been more difficult than most in recent years. The Panthers lost two all-state players from last year and have regrouped behind a budding freshman star on the mound.
“We’ve lost more than what we’re used to, but we know we’re a good team,” Rickel said.
West Platte senior Bre Callahan roped an RBI double to left field in the top of the seventh for her first varsity hit to close the gap to 8-3 before Smith finished off the win.
North Platte did enough damage in the first three innings. Fulton — the Panthers’ speedy centerfielder — led off the bottom of the first with a single and scored on Smith’s groundout. The advantage doubled when Fulton singled home Sams in the second after Sams led off with a bunt single when the ball firmly planted itself in the mud out front of home plate.
The lead hit 3-0 when Daniel hit a two-out double to score Smith after she doubled with one out in the top of the third.
Savannah 9, North Platte 3
The Panthers dropped to 6-4 overall with a loss Monday, Sept. 12 at Dean Park in Dearborn, Mo.
North Platte didn’t score until the bottom of the fifth, plating all three runs in one rally to cut its deficit to 6-3. The inning started with Fulton hit by a pitch, but she didn’t factor in the runs.
Patch reached with a two-out , and Smith followed with a double. Roach plated one with a single, and two walks and an error produced the final two runs.
Rickel finished 2-for-4 with a double and a triple, which came with one out in the sixth. Savannah scored in each of the final two innings and chased Smith with two outs in the
North Platte 9, North Andrew 6
Despite a fast start, the Panthers ended up needing a comeback to win Wednesday, Sept. 7 in Rosendale, Mo.
Up 4-0 early, North Platte trailed 5-4 after the fourth inning. Rickel led off the top of the fifth with a triple — her second in as many at-bats. Fulton walked, and Gracie Roach doubled them both home to put the Panthers back in front.
Rickel, who finished 3-for-4 with three runs scored, singled to lead off the seventh, starting a three-run inning. She also tripled leading off the third in a two-run inning.
Summit Christian 11, West Platte 7
The Bluejays held an early 1-0 lead and made the matchup interesting despite just four hits Tuesday, Sept. 6 in Weston, Mo. Richard went 3-for-4 with a triple and tallied West Platte’s lone RBI.
Summit Christian scored three in the second and two in the third to go ahead 5-2 and tallied runs in five of seven innings against Dunham.
Stewartsville 7, West Platte 6
The Bluejays’ losing skid hit four with a tough loss Monday, Sept. 12 in Stewartsville, Mo. Knox went 2-3 and scored twice, and Dunham finished with five strikeouts for West Platte, which committed three errors in the nonconference road game.