North Platte, the 2013 Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference Champions: Front row, from left: Willow Chitty, Miranda Cardenas, Hallei Morales, Mikenzi Wiseman, Jenny Keck, Hannah Hays, Sally Hengen, Kaite Franzen and team manager Kaysee Little. Back row: Head Coach BJ Songster, Rylie Cotton, Kylie Engleman, Sadie Vargas, Shayla Kummer, Abby Ones, Rachel Kosmacek, Taylor Luft, Erin Weaver, Christina Yoshida and assistant coach Les O'Donnell.
For the first time in five seasons, the North Platte Lady Bulldogs softball team are the champions of the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference.
The Lady Dawgs claimed the championship Saturday on a chilly day in Columbus, but the title didn't come easily.
North Platte cruised to an easy win in the opening game over Scottsbluff, 15-1, and then held on for a 7-5 victory over Norfolk, earning a spot in their second GNAC championship game in three years.
In the championship game, North Platte faced their rivals McCook (16-11) in a back-and-forth battle that wasn't decided until the seventh inning.
North Platte jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Hannah Hays kicked the offense off for the Lady Dawgs with a single, and she advanced to third on a single by Rylie Cotton. Hays scoreed on a passed ball and Cotton scored on a sacrifice fly by Mikenzi Wiseman.
McCook answered with a run in the first on an RBI single by Maddie Elder.
North Platte put three more runs on the board in the third to go up 5-1. Cotton and Wiseman scored on a single to right field by Kylie Engleman. Engleman scored on a sacrifice fly by Sally Hengen.
It didn't take long for McCook to respond, scoring three runs of it's own in the third. McCook's Tiara Schmidt hit an RBI single, followed by a two-run double by Hayley Werkmeister.
At the top of the seventh, the score was tied, 8-8.
North Platte's Willow Chitty singled to start the inning and Kaite Franzen reached base on an error by Alaini Priebe. Hays advanced Chitty and Franzen on a sacrifice bunt.
Chitty scored on a wild pitch by Werkmeister to put North Platte up 9-8. The Lady Dawgs got an insurance run on a line-drive double to the center-field fence by Wiseman, scoring Franzen.
McCook threatened in the bottom of the seventh but North Platte's defense held strong to preserve the 10-8 win and the 2013 GNAC title.
Wiseman went 2-3 with 2 doubles and 2 RBI in the game. Engleman was 2-4 with 2 RBI and Cotton was also 2-4.
North Platte (21-9) is now ranked 8th in Class B by the Nebraska School Athletic Association. North Platte hosts the B-6 district tournament Thursday and Friday at Dowhower Softball Complex.
North Platte's first game is set for 4:45 p.m. Thursday against the winner of Scottsbluff v. Cozad.