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Prep softball: North Central seniors enter home stretch

Alycia Patterson, Hannah George, Abby Nelson and Jessica Huffman, left to right, give NC senior leadership. (Colin Mulvany)
Alycia Patterson, Hannah George, Abby Nelson and Jessica Huffman, left to right, give NC senior leadership. (Colin Mulvany)

The last thing Jessica Huffman expected when she transferred to North Central was to become part of a unique group in school history.

Huffman and fellow seniors Hannah George, Abby Nelson and Alycia Patterson are the final holdovers from the 2013 team that won the first Greater Spokane League fastpitch softball title in NC history.

“It was so exciting, even though I was still the little sophomore who was really quiet,” said Huffman, the team’s first baseman. “I still remember every detail of that (title-clinching) game.”

Now the NC seniors, prepared to scatter this fall to four separate colleges, want to take the final step that eluded the Indians of 2013 and ’14 – the State 3A tournament.

The Indians (10-11) must win twice Saturday at regional in Richland, starting at noon against Southridge (9-11).

“We have about the same record, so that will be a super-good game,” third baseman George said. “Hopefully, we’ll go on to the next step and keep building up. It’s hard getting this far and ending when you’re one week away.”

All four seniors joined varsity in 2013 except for Nelson, who played as a freshman, including some pitching experience before she required knee surgery.

“It was definitely nerve-racking, to say the least, but I did get to connect with some girls as a freshman,” said Nelson, who played left field before switching to second base this season. … “I’ve kind of felt like these (other seniors) have also played all four years because we’ve grown together.”

Right fielder Patterson said the team’s sisterly nature always lifted her spirits.

“What stands out to me is, no matter what the outcome is, we always pick each other up, win or loss,” Patterson said. “We try to never be down on anybody. We win as a team, lose as a team.”

“Everyone has each other’s back,” Huffman said. “It sounds so cheesy to say, but that’s how I feel about it.”

“There’s a lot of diversity on the team, but it’s been like a family and it has been all four years I’ve been here,” Nelson said.

The 2013 Indians stumbled at regional, falling to Shadle Park while playing “not to lose,” coach Rob Kuehn said.

“This team doesn’t have a fear,” Kuehn said. “If anything, their fear is in not trying hard enough. They don’t have a fear of losing, because they’ve been through the losses. We had four wins last year and we jumped to 10 this year.”

“It’s been a struggle, but you lose players and you just have to adjust to that,” George said. “Everybody needs to build everyone up and we should all be leaders, seniors or not.”

The seniors say NC is well-stocked for the years ahead, starting with sophomore pitcher Brooke Olson, who led the GSL in innings pitched and home runs, and junior catcher Kaylee Levien, who had six runs batted in during a district victory over Mt. Spokane.

Patterson leaves behind a special legacy. Her freshman sister, Maddie, is NC’s starting left fielder.

“I definitely think that NC is going to have a good future in front of them,” Patterson said. “We have some good players now who are still going to be here next year.”

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