OGALLALA — At times it seemed as if the North Platte Lady Bulldogs were hitting off the tee as they collected 19 hits in their battle against the western Bulldogs from Gering on Thursday. But North Platte still trailed 6-4 heading into the top of the seventh in the Gothenburg duals being held at Ogallala.
Five of those hits would come in the seventh as North Platte came back to defeat Gering 9-7, with one big hit coming from an unlikely hero.
"It’s tough," said North Platte coach BJ Songster of trailing late. "You start sweating a little bit, but I do have a lot of confidence in our hitting. We also have depth in our bench as well.
"Gering is a great, solid-hitting team. We saw that early on at North Platte and I’m sure we’ll see it later on during the post season. They do make us a little bit nervous. I’m sure they’ll want to take it to us later on."
With one out in the top of the seventh, Sadie Vargas got the rally started with a double to right and Willow Chitty followed with and RBI double to left to cut the lead to one. Songster then called on freshman reserve Hallei Morales to pinch hit.
"Hallei has been one of our big hitters for the JV," said Songster. "Coach Anthony Hinde said she has just been crushing the ball — the hardest he has seen in his high school career."
The left handed hitter promptly placed a well hit ball to right center for a triple, scoring the tying run.
"I’m thinking I want to hit the ball," said Morales of her plate appearance. "I was just looking for a fastball right down the middle."
"With the velocity of that pitcher and just knowing what Hallei is capable of doing I just thought what do we have to lose at that point and time in the game," the coach said. "She came through with an outstanding hit and how exciting for her."
Christina Yoshida walked to put runners on the corners and then took second without a throw. That brought up another first-year player for the Lady Bulldogs, junior Marissa Ramos. Ramos’ two-RBI double plated the go-ahead runs.
"It was pretty great," Ramos said of her hit. "I was just looking for a perfect pitch right down the middle to drive back. It was inside and I was able to pull it to left."
"Marissa is a very confident hitter and she’s very consistent," Songster said. "I have all the confidence in her. She seems to come through a lot for us. I’m pleased and very thankful that she joined our squad this year. She’s a huge asset."
With two out, Rylie Cotton singled up the middle driving in another insurance run, giving the Lady Bulldogs a 9-6 lead heading to the bottom of the seventh. The single was one of five for Cotton in the game to go with three RBI.
Gering (15-6) got an RBI single from Jessica Rogers in the bottom of the inning to close to within two. Rogers was thrown out trying to advance as pitcher Jennifer Keck cut the throw from center. Mikenzie Wiseman ended the game when she caught a foul ball from her catchers position.
North Platte (18-9) started the game with four successive hits but base-running errors kept them to only one run. Ramos and Hannah Hays singled, Cotton singled to center scoring Ramos, but Hays was thrown out at the plate and then Cotton was caught trying to advance to second by Rogers.
"It’s unfortunate, that’s the way our last few games have been going," Songster said. "We’re hitting the ball well but we haven’t been getting the breaks.
"Yes, it was a little frustrating. My mind was saying is this going to be a repeat of McCook."
Rogers drove in the tying run in the bottom of the first. Gering’s Brooke Doggett looked to drive in Rogers, if not for a nice running catch by Christina Yoshida in center. Yoshida then doubled up Rogers at second.
An RBI triple by Jennifer Keck and Vargas’ RBI single gave North Platte a 3-1 lead in the third. Gering took a 4-3 lead in the bottom half, but Cotton tied it in the fourth as she plated Hays with another single.
Keck got the win in relief of Ramos. For the moment they are the Lady Bulldogs 1-2 punch.
"They’ve done very well working off each other," Songster said. "It’s been a struggle for us to have Kaite [Franzen] injured. I’m looking forward to having her back.
"Marissa and Jennifer do very well in the circle. They’re very confident pitchers and I think they are confident in one another, knowing they can back each other up."
Besides Cotton’s five hits, Ramos had three hits with two doubles; Wiseman two singles; Vargas three hits with a double and Willow Chitty three hits with a double.
North Platte defeated Scottsbluff, 15-0, in a three-inning game that followed. Cotton was the winning pitcher with three strikeouts. Cotton continued her hitting from the first contest, going 2-for-3 with an RBI. Ramos was 2-for-2 with two RBI.
The Lady Bulldogs play in the Lincoln Southeast Tournament on Saturday.
North Platte ........................... 1 0 2 1 0 0 5 — 9
Gering .................................. 1 0 3 0 2 0 1 — 7
WP: Jennifer Keck. LP: Alexa Longoria. 2B: NP - Marissa Ramos (2); Sadie Vargas; Willow Chitty. G - Jessica Rogers (2). 3B: NP - Jennifer Keck; Hallei Morales.