Head Coach B.J. Songster
For the second straight season, the North Platte High School softball team will host the district tourney, but this year they will start in the driver's seat.
Last year the Lady Dawgs faced three bigger schools in Class A. This year they will battle five smaller Class B schools on Thursday and Friday in the tournament.
All season, the Lady Bulldogs have heard about being relegated to Class B. Now they will get the chance to show they can dominate the district and qualify for a state tournament for the first time in nine years.
"We're pretty excited about being at home for districts," North Platte coach B.J. Songster said. "We're pretty pumped and we're anxious to get the tournament going."
This time last year, NPHS was 17-10 and earned home field in districts as one of the top seven seeds in Class A, but finished as the district runner-up to Bellevue West.
This year, North Platte is the home team in its new district in Class B. The Lady Dawgs are also the No. 1 seed with a record of 22-9.
"We've had a great season," Songster said. "We've been pretty consistent and we've played hard. We have a great group of girls who are competitive."
The Bulldogs have had a potent lineup, led by catcher Kenzi Wiseman, who tied the school record for most home runs in a season with four.
"We have a solid lineup up and down with Kaite Franzen, Marissa Ramos, Jenny Keck, Kenzi Wiseman and Christina Yoshida," Songster said. "We have team batting average of .340."
When the season began, the question mark for NPHS was if 2012 pitcher Ashten Hernandez could be replaced. Jenny Keck and Marissa Ramos have stepped in quite nicely while Rylie Cotton and Franzen have also saw some time, Songster said.
As No. 1-seed, the Lady Dawgs will have a bye in the first round and open the double elimination tournament against the winner of the Cozad (12-13) and Scottsbluff (7-19) game. North Platte is scheduled to take the field at 4:45 p.m. on Thursday.
McCook (16-11) is the No. 2 seed and the Bison also receive a bye. They will play the winner of Gering (17-7) and Alliance (0-17).
Against those five teams, North Platte is 8-2 during the season. The only two losses were in a doubleheader at McCook on Sept. 24.
"McCook always plays us tough," Songster said. "They have two on us and we have two on them. Gering is also a good team and they hit the ball well."
If North Platte wins the first game, Songster said the second game will be a good one, whether it's McCook or Gering.
NPHS has momentum after winning the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference tournament on Oct. 5.
In the GNAC, the Lady Bulldogs defeated Scottsbluff, Norfolk and McCook on their way to the conference title in Columbus. They also battled cold weather and a three-and-a-half-hour road trip that started at 5 a.m. the morning after the school's homecoming dance.
"The girls played hard and they never gave up," Songster said. "Knowing they can persevere through the cold weather gives them an edge."