HASTINGS, Neb. — Omaha Benson pulled more than a rabbit out of its hat Wednesday. It found a card that said “Biggest upset in state tournament history.”
The upstart Bunnies upset top-ranked Millard West 5-4 in a nine-inning thriller in the Class A state softball tournament at the Smith Softball Complex.
Few people whose school colors aren’t black and green believed Benson (24-8) — in its first-ever state tournament appearance — would be able to knock off a team that had lost just one game since the season started Aug. 16.
If Bunnies pitcher Kayla Guerrero heard any talk about her team having no chance, she tuned it out.
“My mindset was I wanted to come out and win,” Guerrero said. “It’s a great experience to make state, but once we got here, we just said, ‘Let’s get it.’ There’s no reason we had to settle for just making it.
“We had already beat Papillion-La Vista South, and I think they’re better than this team.”
Millard West then became one of the first two teams eliminated from the Class A tournament after dropping a 12-11 decision in a Wednesday night elimination game to Grand Island.
“What it came down to is in two games we hit or walked 20 batters,” Wildcats coach Don Brummer said. “You can’t expect to be a championship team walking that many batters. That just puts so much pressure on every other part of the game.”
The other team eliminated on the first day of the three-day tournament was Bellevue West. The Thunderbirds lost 3-0 to defending Class A state champion Millard South and then was routed 12-2 in four innings by Papio South in Wednesday’s other elimination game.
Benson will play Papillion-La Vista in a winners bracket game at 10 a.m. Thursday after the Monarchs defeated Grand Island 11-6. Millard South will face Lincoln Southeast, which held on for a 10-9 victory over Papio South in a game that featured six total home runs.
Those first three games all ended before Benson’s historic victory. Longtime tournament observers couldn’t remember a time when a No. 8 seed defeated a No. 1 seed in Class A.
Guerrero appeared to keep the hard-hitting Wildcats off-balance with her change-up. Benson coach Bob Woodworth said 28-3 Millard West plays a similar style of offense to Papio South, a team the Bunnies defeated 2-1 on Sept. 27.
Guerrero gave up just four hits, and the Bunnies’ defense committed only two errors behind her. The overall performance nearly left Woodworth speechless after the game.
“That was unbelievable,” Woodworth said. “All week in practice we were pretty subtle with everything. We just wanted to get through those first two innings with double goose eggs on the scoreboard and see where it took us.”
It took them into the third inning, when both teams scored two runs. Millard West went ahead 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth, but the Bunnies got that run back in the top of the seventh when catcher Katie Teel singled with two outs and left fielder Rylee Kroeger brought her home with an RBI single.
“Kroeger had a phenomenal day at the plate,” Woodworth said. “She had some seeing-eye hits, but her hardest hit of the day was the out she made. Between that and Kayla keeping them off-balance, that made the difference.”
Both teams scored once in the eighth inning to make the game 4-4. Benson scored what proved to be the winning run in the ninth on an RBI groundout by Kroeger.
Now the Bunnies get that rematch with Papillion, the team that defeated them 12-2 in four innings in the Oct. 5 District A-5 championship game.
Papillion jumped ahead of Grand Island 3-0 in the first two innings, but the 37-5 Islanders bounced back with four runs in the third inning and two more in the fourth.
The 27-7 Monarchs cranked up their offense and scored five runs in the fifth for an 8-6 lead and added three runs in the final two innings.
“When it was 6-3 we started to get aggressive at the plate,” Monarchs coach Todd Petersen said. “That’s what really turned the game around.”
Kylie Schwarting was 3-for-4, including the go-ahead 2-run double in the fifth inning. Freshman pitcher Sam Dellinger earned the victory by striking out five in the final 3 innings.
Lincoln Southeast and Papio South combined for six home runs in their game. Two of those were by Southeast’s Erin Lockhart. It’s Lockhart, Jaylee Hinrichs, Megan May and McKenzie Anderson who have combined for 30 of the 27-9 Knights’ 33 home runs this season.
Sophomore Jordan Johnson had seven strikeouts for Millard South in its win over Bellevue West. Vicky Kinney was 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI to lead the 26-5 Patriots offense in the fastest game of the day.
“Defensively we were good and so was our pitching,” Millard South coach Steve Kerkman said. “Our offense could have been a little better. We only executed one out of four bunts we called.”
Contact the writer:
402-618-4113, email@example.com, twitter.com/stevebeideck