From left, Anna Crane, Mikenzi Wiseman and Kaite Franzen prepare for a coin toss.
The ages 18 and under North Platte Express fast-pitch softball team is preparing for the ASA state tournament in Norfolk on July 11-13.
The state tournament will mark the first time this season the entire starting lineup of the Express has played a tournament together.
"Every tournament we've played this season, we've been without two or three starters for various reasons." said Express head coach Mark Franzen.
The Express's season has had its ups and downs.
Franzen said the team has been “fairly competitive, despite never fielding all nine starters at the same time. But in order to be competitive at this level, you have to have all your playmakers on the field."
The Express planned a short season because several players are playing for the North Platte High School softball team this fall, and others have college commitments.
“High school softball conditioning starts Aug. 2 and college coaches have stated that summer coaches are playing girls entirely too much and they're starting to see unnecessary injuries from too many games and not enough rest," Franzen said. "I scaled back our summer schedule, based on that advice. If we play 50-60 games in the summer and then they play 40 games for the high school, that's over 100 games in five-month span. That's a lot of wear and tear on these young athlete's bodies; especially the pitchers and catchers."
Three Express players will continue their softball careers at the collegiate level.
Anna Crane signed a national letter of intent to play for North Platte Community College this fall. High School seniors Kaite Franzen and Mikenzi Wiseman will play college softball in the fall 2015.
Franzen is being recruited by NAIA Bellevue University and Wiseman is being recruited by NCAA Division II Southwest Minnesota State University.