NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - Last season, the 10 and under Jr Belles softball team finished 12th at the state tournament, but with a large portion of the team returning this season, head coach Shelly Byrn was optimistic at the start of the season.
The 10 and under Jr Belles softball team finished in third place at the state softball tournament in Hastings (Credit: Patrick Johnstone/KNOP-TV)
"Things that we needed to work on were things that were at the beginning of the season when it was so wet and cold, so we weren't able to get outside. But we knew that once we did, the thing with this team is they work really hard, so when we do get on the field really nice and dry enough, they really work hard. They're like sponges, they absorb everything we try to teach them," Byrn said.
Byrn also said she doesn't need to remind the players of things they've worked on when it comes to game time.
"There's things that are just drilled in their head that they know. They know the little things, they know they've got to get the bunt down, they've got to look at coach John at third," she said.
The players understand the importance of paying attention and working hard at practice.
"We do a lot practicing to help us get better, and [Byrn] pushes us so that we can do a lot better in our games," Katie Titus, a pitcher on the team, said.
"If they don't get on us about certain things we're never going to learn that we're doing it wrong and if we don't know we're doing it wrong or just going to keep on doing it over and over again," outfielder Kadyn Pavlik said.
With having a lot of returning players, Byrn was confident her players would be able to play well on their return to the state tournament this year.
"I knew they were going to do a lot better than they did last year, because we had grown, we had gotten stronger, we had gotten smarter," Byrn said.
Some of the girls have confidence in themselves before the tournament, but didn't know exactly how far they could go.
"I felt we were going to get higher but I didn't think we were going to get that high," Pavlik said.
"For me it kind of snuck up on me, I didn't know, there were some really challenging teams out there," catcher Payton Jones said.
The team started off well, winning their first three games, but a loss to David City put them in the elimination bracket. They finished the weekend with a 5-2 record, and defeated David City in the third place game.
"I felt good about it but the team that were versing for third place had already beat us once so I was kind of scared but I felt that we could beat them," Pavlik said.
"We were ready we're ready to play ready to go and we just had it," Jones said.
Titus pitched in five games over the weekend, she said she was tired at the end of the weekend, but would have been ready to pitch in a sixth game if needed.
When she finds herself in tough situations, Titus' strategy to regroup is to, "stay behind the mound and take a couple deep breaths and think how I can fix my pitch," she said.
Byrn said Titus, and the other pitchers on the team, was a big reason for the team's success in the tournament.
"I think our key to success is that we have the pitching staff to do it. A lot of teams don't at 10 and under, you a pitcher and a catcher and you're set, but we have a pitcher and a catcher, and we have a couple more pitchers, they both helped us out of state," Byrn said.
While the players are still young, Byrn has seen the girls grow over the passed two years, and she thinks they will continue to be successful as they progress in their playing careers.
"They've really come together as a team, they're starting to put we before me, we really encourage that, because that's what's going to make our team successful as well. The team comes first, and you see that in the little things with them in the dugout," Byrn said.