This one is going to hurt — possibly for a long time.
Bellevue West defeated North Platte 12-1 in four innings on Friday in the A-7 District Softball Tournament title game. The loss not only drops the Lady Bulldogs to 19-12 on the season, but it could end their year.
Entering play on Friday, North Platte was barely ahead of Omaha Benson for the eighth position in wild card points. If six of the seven teams ahead of the Lady Bulldogs win district titles — joining Bellevue West — the eighth position in wild card points will qualify for the state tournament next week in Hastings.
“This one stings,” said North Platte head coach BJ Songster after the final. “Getting run-ruled in the championship, this one hurts.
“For our underclassmen, it’s another learning experience. They will carry this around until next year.”
Unless, of course, they have to put it behind them to play in the state tournament.
“I have no idea what the points are,” Songster said. “I guess there’s a chance we still might make it, but we won’t know until [Saturday].”
For the Thunderbirds, a state tournament berth has been the goal for many seasons.
“These girls have really been hitting the ball the last three weeks,” said Bellevue West head coach Casie Onken. “We’ve been trying to reach the state tournament for many years now.
“It’s unbelievable how these girls have come together the past few weeks and now we’re going to the state tournament.”
For the Thunderbirds, it’s the third win over North Platte in two weeks.
“I can’t explain why we’ve dominated North Platte,” Onken said. “It’s a credit to the girls.
“Linzy Heim has been our pitcher since she was a freshman. She’s done a tremendous job. We were so excited to be coming to North Platte for districts. We hadn’t had an overnight road trip all season and we were thrilled to be here for this tournament.”
North Platte got to the championship with a 11-1 win over Omaha Central the loser’s bracket final. The Lady Bulldogs started the day with their offense cranked up and overwhelmed Central early.
In the championship, however, key hits never came. Heim hit a three-run home run for the Thunderbirds in the first inning and North Platte answered with Sydney Standage plating a run with a double in the bottom of the first.
In the bottom of the second inning, North Platte threatened with runners at second and third, but couldn’t trim the margin.
The Thunderbirds went to work in the top of the third inning, plating six runs on four hits and sending 10 batters to the plate in the inning and extending the lead to 9-1. In the top of the fourth, Bellevue West added three more runs, including a towering home run by Kelsey Mitera that landed on a car in the parking lot.
“We just couldn’t get that key hit,” Songster said. “If we get a ball through in the second inning, it’s tied 3-3 going to the third, but instead, they had that big inning and we were just deflated.
“We were looking for that fighter, that one girl who would step up and tell the girls we weren’t done. We just couldn’t get that big hit we needed to get going.”
If North Platte’s season ends, it has been a successful one.
“Les ([O’Donnell] is the positive one,” Songster said. “He pointed out we were conference champions and we beat No. 1 Class C Gothenburg and out-played McCook.
“But, I gotta tell you. This one hurts and it might hurt until next season.”