The Columbus Pinnacle Bank Bullets 10 & Under softball team found itself in another sticky situation June 28. The team had traveled all the way to Hastings for the USA Nebraska State Softball Tournament only to lose its opening game of the bracket.
That's when head coach Chris Watts told his team it had two options: they could throw in the towel and go home early or they could battle the opponents and triple-digit temperatures and work a way through the loser's bracket.
That attitude guided the Bullets to four wins out of five over the course of three days and a piece of hardware to take home afterwards. Though the run came short of the championship game, Columbus fought all the way to a fourth-place finish.
"This year we were on the older side of 10s," Watts aid. "Last year, for as young as we were, we did really well, as well. We knew we had a pretty good team coming in, but they might have done better than what we expected. We kind of knew we had a pretty good team."
The team won 24 games this season, placing in the top four of multiple tournaments throughout the year including the district tournament in Grand Island where the Bullets took second, also taking a trip through the loser's bracket.
"Coming into districts we were doing well, but we were about 3-2 at tournaments," Watts said. "We were getting third, fourth, fifth at tournaments, but the competition was really good as well, so we weren’t really sure where we were at. But, when we got to districts, we lost the first game. So they had to come back and win four games in a row, which is pretty unbelievable."
After fighting back into contention at the district tournament, the Bullets went on to compete at state thanks to those four straight victories. A loss to Pender forced the Bullets to once again face elimination early on.
It was a close-fought game that went to extra innings, but Columbus fell just short in the end.
"It was tough," Watts said. "We lost that game in extras. That was kind of a tough loss. We knew we had a tough road ahead of us to come back through. We didn’t know what to think. It’s hard to say what girls will do, if they’ll just give up, especially when it’s 100 degrees outside to boot, or keep fighting. We kind of told them that. I said, ‘We’ve got choices to make. Do we want to keep fighting or do we want to go home?’ They kept fighting, that’s for sure."
The girls not only kept fighting, but went on a win streak to get back in medal contention, including a game at 11 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. on Sunday.
"It’s unbelievable what they did," Watts said. "I told them that. As hot as it was and just playing that many games back-to-back. That’s the kind of group of kids that they are. They kept on battling, and us coaches were sure proud of them."
During the state tournament, Columbus defeated Hastings 11-10, Edge Wagenfuhr 9-8, St. Paul 11-10, Sports Express 8-7, Pender in a rematch 12-1 and UFA Thunder 6-4.
It was this fighting spirit which Watts was most impressed with during the entirety of the season.
"The best thing I saw this year from our girls is, it’s unbelievable how they keep fighting," he said. "We seem to play a good team off the bat and we battle all the way back through the loser’s bracket. There aren’t too many teams that can do that, I don’t think. To win four to six games in a row to get back in place for the tournament, I’m really proud of their work ethic and the way they just keep on fighting."
Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email firstname.lastname@example.org