Friday they were not going to let it slip away. Not to county rival South Putnam, who had defeated them in the final last year. Not with their ace on the mound.
Not this year.
"I don't think there was any doubt in their minds they were going to get a sectional," North coach Norm Fish said. "We weren't overconfident, but we felt good."
The Cougars rode that good feeling, and an all-around team effort, to a 10-0 win over South Putnam in six innings. The Cougars improved to 23-6 and advanced to regional play against Triton Central. North will host the Tigers, who advanced with a 10-2 win over Scecina, at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Fish felt very good for his kids, who have missed out the last couple of years. He just felt this year was a better situation.
"We started off with five quick runs, and with Jake (Mullis) throwing the ball, it was a whole different situation," Fish said.
The game pitted each team's number one starter against the other. For the Cougars, it was the hard-throwing Mullis. For the Eagles, it was Adam Nees, who had picked up their first two sectional wins, the first in a shutout of Monrovia on Monday, and the second in two innings of relief on Thursday night.
It simply seemed to be a matter of Mullis being fresher and more dominant. The senior went all six innings for the Cougars, allowing just two hits and one walk. He struck out 14 Eagles.
"I wanted to come out, pitch well for the team and get a win. I was just hoping they'd back me up, and they did," Mullis said.
"(North Putnam's) ace did what he was supposed to do," South coach Harold Campbell said. "We helped him out some, but that's a credit to him."
With Mullis racking up so many strikeouts, the North defense did not have to make many plays, but they did what they had to do, committing no errors on the night.
And then there were the North bats. Across the board, the offense was clicking. Seven players had hits, and seven scored runs. Kyle Rooker got the offense started in the second with a solo home run to left center. After the game, he kept it about the team, not wanting to talk about individual achievement.
"It's not me -- we all want this so bad. We have a vision, and we're going to try our best to get there," he said.
Shelby Reed led the Cougars, going 3-for-3 with a double. Rooker and Kyle Alcorn, who was 2-for-3 with a double and two runs batted in, also had multiple hits. Four other Cougars had one each.
"If it isn't one boy getting a hit for us, it's another," Fish said.
For the Eagles, Nees gave a great effort in his final start, but it simply wasn't enough. The senior went five innings, allowing nine runs on 11 hits and three walks. He struck out three Cougars.
"Adam Nees did what you expect any senior to do. He went out there and left it all on the field," said South assistant coach Emmett Carney.
Campbell added that during a conference, Nees looked at him and said, "Coach, I've got to do this." Campbell kept him in the game until the end of the fifth, allowing his team to go down with its best pitcher on the mound.
"He can go out knowing he left it all on the field. That's all you can ask," Campbell said.
Campbell was just pleased with the progress he's seen from the team in his first year at the helm. For a team that consistently started four freshman, a sectional final appearance was very nice.
"It was a great season," Campbell said. "There are no other guys I'd rather be coaching. They are great young men."
"These guys truly, genuinely care about and love each other other. You can't put a price on that,"Carney said.
Now their focus turns to the future.
"We look at a team like North Putnam, and that's where we plan to be very soon. This season was a good foundation. We expect to have a much stronger season next season," Campbell said.
For North Putnam, the focus is on Triton Central -- after enjoying their sectional championship for a little while. In the Cougars' previous two wins, Fish had simply wanted to turn around and focus on the next game. This time, he decided to relax -- for a bit.
"We're going to definitely enjoy this," he said. "But I know what's on these kids minds, and we aren't done."
The Cougar outscored their opponents 31-0 in three sectional games. Fish and the players credited this to a big focus on defense in the second half of the season.
"Coach challenged us about halfway through the year to step up our defense. We worked hard in practice, and I think it showed in this tournament," Mullis said.
For Friday, the Cougars just enjoyed themselves. The team, and especially the seniors, were right where they thought they should be all along.
"It's a big relief," Mullis said.
Sectional 44 Final
South Putnam 000 000 -- 0 2 4
North Putnam 032 041 -- 10 11 0
Nees, Davidson (6) and Chestnut (SP). Mullis and Berry (NP).
W -- Mullis
L -- Nees
2B -- Alcorn, Reed (NP)
HR -- Rooker (NP)
Next game -- North Putnam will host Triton Central in regional at 7 p.m. Tuesday. South Putnam finishes the season 10-17.