The North Platte Community College softball team got some timely offense late to beat Southeast Community College 10-2 on Saturday in the Region IX tournament at the Dowhower Softball Complex.
After winning on Saturday, the Lady Knights move to the Region IX finals on Sunday where they will play the winner of an elimination game between Southeast and Central Community College.
As the No. 1-seed NPCC drew Southeast in to open the Region IX Division II tournament after the Storm beat Central 5-2 earlier in the day. The momentum from the victory over Central carried over into the first inning for Southeast.
The Storm scored a pair of runs in the top of the first after two-out singles by Molly Kruse and Shelby Baker.
The Knights came back with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning when Ashly Duin hit a two-out single to center field.
The game remained 2-1 for four more innings. Both teams had runners on base in each of those innings but they couldn't string together enough hits to bring them home. For NPCC, the problem was making solid contact with the ball. Southeast pitcher Marley Christian kept the Lady Knights off-balance by getting them to hit nothing but pop fly balls.
Since the Knights weren't having any success hitting balls in the air, they decided in the fifth inning to lay them down on the ground.
Erin Beverage led off the bottom of the fifth with a walk. Rachel Silva then bunted one up the middle to move Beverage. But Christian made a wild throw to first base and that allowed Beverage to score and the game was tied.
On the next play, Tiffany Brasby bunted to Christian and the Storm pitcher made another errant throw to first. Silva scored and NPCC had a 3-2 lead.
Julia Gutierrez then hit a two-run single down the third base foul line and the floodgates were opened.
Duin doubled to right-center to score Gutierrez to make it 6-2 and Christian was replaced by Jalyn Meyer. Meyer got the first two outs of the fifth right away but Beverage added another run with a single to left.
"Small-ball always gets us going," said NPCC coach Janelle Higgins. "We got on base, put the ball on the ground and made (Southeast) work. That fired us up. They made some errors but we also hit the ball well that inning."
Silva, the starting pitcher for NPCC, held the Storm scoreless in the top of the sixth and in the bottom half, the Lady Knights went right back to work.
Gutierrez and Duin scored the next two runs to make it 9-2 and then Amanda Hallett sacrificed the last run that ended the game early with the eight-run mercy rule.
Higgins says her team will be confident and do the same thing on Sunday against the winner of the elimination game between Southeast and Central.
"We're just going to come out ready to play," she said. "We're not even going to look who it is we're playing. We're just going to play our game."