Gering draws top seed for district tournament: Young Bearcats learn from tough GNAC softball competition
     2012-10-05      By Terry Gaston   
Photo by Ken Kurtz/Spectrum Photo Gering junior Alexa Longoria (No. 3) makes it home during a recent game against Chadron on Sept. 4. The Lady Bulldogs are the number one seed going into the District B-6 Tournament, scheduled Thursday in McCook.  
Gering softball coach Molly Bonuchi sees the Bulldogs’ No. 1 seed in the District B-6 Tournament as a reward for the team’s success in going 20-5 this season.

But Bonuchi also realizes that having the top seed also means the Bulldogs are a targeted team when play opens Thursday at the McCook Jaycee Complex.

The top-seeded Bulldogs thus receive a first-round bye, as does No. 2 seed and host McCook (16-15), which finished third in the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference Tournament in Scottsbluff on Saturday.
Action in the six-team field continues until Friday, and the district champion will advance to the Class B State Tournament in Hastings on Oct. 11 and 12.

“I think it’s a good accomplishment for the girls and it shows how hard of workers they have been this season,” Bonuchi said of the Bulldogs’ top seed. “But we have to realize that we have a target on our back. We just have to go in prepared, knowing that everyone wants us to lose.”

Gering will play at 3:45 p.m. Mountain Time against either No. 4 Cozad (13-15) or No. 5 Lexington (11-16). A win puts the Bulldogs into Friday’s 10 a.m. semifinals, with the loser facing the Scottsbluff-Alliance loser Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

Scottsbluff (14-16) is the No. 3 seed and plays No. 6 seeded Alliance (1-19) at 2 p.m. Mountain Time in the first round on Thursday. A win earns the victor a 3:45 p.m. date against No. 2 seed McCook (16-15), a loss into a 5:30 elimination game.

The championship game is set for Friday at 1:30 p.m., with a second title game if needed at 3:15 p.m.

In preparing for either Cozad or Lexington — which was the No. 8 seed in the GNAC tournament but scored a 7-4 upset win over top-seeded North Platte — Bonuchi said the Bulldogs have the advantage of splitting two games against Cozad.

“To our benefit, we have seen Cozad twice, but we have not seen Lexington,” she said. “It may be to our benefit to play Cozad, because we know their strengths and we know their weaknesses.”

“The thing we have been telling the girls is we can’t take anything for granted. Whoever has the best weekend is going to come out on top.”

Bonuchi said that starting senior pitcher Jennifer Barge (15-3), who has been resting an injured right throwing shoulder for several weeks, was expected to resume workouts on Tuesday. Junior Alexa Longoria has stepped in nicely and compiled a 5-2 record.

“Alexa has done a very good job, and we also have Brook Satur, who threw some innings at Ogallala (in losses to Cozad and McCook on Sept. 20) and she kept the hitters off-balance,” Bonuchi said. “So we know we have some options, although we really need Brooke at shortstop.”

Bearcats swept in GNAC

SCOTTSBLUFF — Despite watching his young Scottsbluff softball team lose all three of its games Saturday in the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference Tournament, Bearcats coach Kendall Vogel said he saw some rays of hope from his girls with the District B-6 Tournament looming Thursday and Friday in McCook.

The Bearcats played all three of their games at Lacy Park, the last two scheduled east of town following their 9-1, opening-round loss to No. 3 seeded Norfolk. Scottsbluff then fell to Hastings 12-5 in the consolation semifinals and then lost to Columbus 9-2 in the seventh-place game.

“One thing we talked is that when we get runners in scoring position, we’ve got to come up with the timely hits. We left tons of runners out there. The second game we should have won if we had made a few timely hits,” said Vogel, whose team stranded eight runners against Columbus.

“But I thought the girls competed well, and that’s what we’re looking for, at least to compete well. It’s a little tough when you have these three games in a row, and Bri (Fliam, the starting pitcher in all three games) did a good job of pitching.“

Against Norfolk, Scottsbluff senior Natalie Wooden led off with an inside-the-park home run. The Panthers responded with a run in each of the first three innings, but then scored six runs — five after a two-out error — in the bottom of the fourth to end the game on run rule.

“I thought our defense was good for the most part, it seems like we always give up one big inning,” Vogel said. “We just talked about that we need to learn from this and get better for districts.”

Wooden and senior Kelsey Albright had the only two hits off Norfolk sophomore pitcher Skylar Johnson.

“It was good to see this kind of pitching,“ Vogel said. “We saw a little better pitching, which is good for us going into districts. And it was good to play some new teams too, and that was good for the girls.”

The Panthers then advanced into the championship semifinals at the SHS fields and downed McCook 8-6. Kearney (9-20) then won the championship 14-5 over Norfolk (12-20). Third place went to McCook after the Bison drilled Lexington 14-2.

Lexington, the No. 8 seed, surprised top-seeded North Platte 7-4 in their first-round contest. North Platte (17-10) then downed Columbus 6-2, before blanking Hastings (10-21) for fifth place, 8-0.

Columbus (9-20) had lost to Kearney 9-4 in the first round, and Hastings was sent to Lacy Park after a 12-5 loss to McCook.

In their semifinal loss to Hastings, the Bearcats got seven hits off senior Taylor Musgrave but committed four errors. Scottsbluff scored four runs in the top of the first inning, only to have the Tigers score three in the bottom of the first, then four in the second and two more in the third.

The Bearcats scored three in the fourth to pull within 9-7, but Hastings answered with three in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Scottsbluff senior Lexi Webber had two of the Bearcats’ hits, driving home two runs on a single and two more on a triple. Fliam pitched the first three innings before giving way to freshman Sarah Cloud for the final two innings.

Errors haunted Scottsbluff in the seventh-place game against Columbus, with the Bearcats committing six miscues. The Discoverers took command of a 3-1 game with five runs on six hits and one Scottsbluff error in the fifth inning.

Senior Savanna Betancur had three of the Bearcats’ six hits and scored one run while driving home another. Junior Betsy Holscher, sophomore Barbara Calvert and Wooden had Scottsbluff’s other three hits, all singles.

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