NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - After reaching the state championship tournament in Class B last season, the North Platte softball team is preparing to return, but they will have a tougher road to get their, being in Class A this season.
The Bulldogs are young this season, but are hopeful to return to the state championship, this year in Class A (Credit: Patrick Johnstone/KNOP-TV)
"They're hungry. they're accepting the challenge of going up to Class A, and are really getting after it. We have a really tough schedule to start the season, it's the toughest it's ever been since I've been here. In the first ten games, only one had a losing record last year, and everybody else had over 20 win seasons," said head coach Jeff Barner.
The Bulldogs open the season hosting a triangular against Gering and Adams Central, who won 20 games and 26 games last year, respectively.
However, the difficult start is not going to discourage this team.
"It's a crazy tough start, but that'll tell us where we need to get to by the end of the year," Barner said.
The players are confident in their ability coming into the season as well.
"Not much has changed, we're still working really hard, going all in. We're working really hard at practice. Hopefully it shows on the field," said senior catcher Cassidy Ratliff.
"I feel like we'll do very well this year. We have a good group, we all stick together, we're like a family. We've known each other for a while so I think we'll be pretty good this year," said senior shortstop Abby Orr.
Another challenge for the team this year is the team's youth, which brings with it inexperience.
"It's a young team, it's a little different than the last couple years just, because we have so much youth on the team. But, that's also exciting, we're building for the future, and it's fun," Barner said.
The seniors on the team have taken it upon themselves to help out the underclassmen on the team.
"I've been helping out by just leading by example, just telling them 'hey it's going to be okay if you make mistake you've just got to shake it off,'" Orr said.
One of those freshmen, Tatum Montelongo, is going to be one of the starting pitchers. As a senior catcher, Ratliff said she is going to do her best to keep her freshman pitcher calm during games.
"I know it's really nerve-wracking as a freshman to start, and just working with her and making sure her pitches are moving and not staying flat," Ratliff said.