HASTINGS — Grand Island Senior High got a tough reminder of how quickly things can change when two top softball teams play Thursday evening at the Class A state tournament.
The No. 3-rated Islanders held a 2-0 lead in the sixth inning and had retired 15 straight Papillion-La Vista South batters.
Hold that lead and record five more outs, and Grand Island would have played on the final day of the state tournament for the first time in school history.
Instead, the Islanders saw the No. 4 Titans’ offense come alive to get six of its seven hits of the game in a four-run sixth inning en route to a 4-3 victory.
“If it’s going to end, this is the way to have it end,” G.I. coach K.C. Hehnke said. “We played seven great innings of ball. We just threw too many pitches in one inning.
“They’re a great hitting team. We knew that coming in, so there’s nothing to say. We made all the plays. We did everything you can possibly do. We hit the ball hard. Tip our hats to Papillion-La Vista South. We play those guys, we’re going to win 50 percent, they’re going to win 50 percent.”
Grand Island pitcher Lindsey Telecky was cruising into the sixth, having given up one hit to start the game and then recording 15 straight outs.
Titan leadoff hitter Nicole Warren changed that with a solo home run with one out in the sixth. She sent a full-count pitch just over the glove of left fielder Mollie McNelis.
Paige Nekola singled and Courtney Schnendt doubled. Paige Dennis tied the game with a sacrifice fly before Jackie Jaramillo — the winning pitcher — produced a two-run homer to give the Titans a 4-2 lead.
“We were throwing the ball outside,” Hehnke said. “You’re pitching to the umpire’s zone and we just got too close. And you’re not going to stop a team like that forever. I wish we could have stopped them a little earlier.
“This is not on Lindsey because she’s had a phenomenal year. There’s not many teams that every hold them to four (runs), let alone (get) 15 outs in a row.”
The Islanders got one run back in the sixth on Allie Richardson’s single to score Liz Perez, but G.I. stranded a pair and Jaramillo sent the Islanders down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh to move Papio South on to Friday’s losers’ bracket final.
Grand Island stranded five runners over the first four innings — including leaving the bases loaded in the fourth — before breaking through in the fifth.
Richardson singled and Kali Kohlhof reached on an error before Jessica Kleine delivered a two-run double down the left field line with two outs.
Earlier in the day, Telecky threw a one-hitter to lead the Islanders to an 8-0 five-inning win over No. 6 Lincoln Southeast.
Telecky only allowed a two-out double to Erin Lockkhart in the fourth inning while striking out seven and walking one.
Libby Norvell provided the G.I. offense with yet another big hit. Her second home run of the state tournament — and second of the season — put the Islanders up 3-0 in the top of the third. Her three-run shot to right centerfield was hit into the wind.
“That was unbelievable,” Hehnke said of his team’s performance. “We came out to play. It was no different than right here (against Papio South).
“The one down side of the tournament is when the two winners play, and the loser has to come back and play a team like us. (The Knights) were fine. They battled hard. But when we hit that home run that girl started crying on the mound and we had a pretty good idea it was over with.”
Courtesy runner Bri McKay scored from second on Richardson’s infield single to make it 4-0 in the third.
In the fourth, Norvell added a double down the leftfield line to drive in her fourth run of the game.
Kayla Lindell’s two-run triple and Kallie Rother’s RBI single in the fifth helped Grand Island end the game early due to the eight-run mercy rule.
The Islanders finished the season 38-6, a school record for wins. The team also won its first conference championship and its two wins at the state tournament matched its total from its first five trips to state combined.
“It was unbelievable,” Hehnke said. “They’ve worked extremely hard, and most good programs do this. They’ve spent a lot of time in the offseason weight training and all that good stuff.
“We had an unbelievable season. We had an unbelievable season the year before. We had an unbelievable season the year before that. It keeps getting better. It’s going to be tough next year to get better but, to be honest with you, we have the players to step in right now. I think we have a bright future ahead of us.”
Grand Island (38-5) 004 13—8 10 0
Lincoln Southeast (27-11) 000 00—0 1 0
WP—Telecky (26-4). LP—Hinrichs (22-9). 2B—GI, Telecky, Norvell; LSE, Lockhart. 3B—GI, Lindell. HR—GI, Norvell (2).
Papillion-LV South (28-7) 000 004 0—4 7 1
Grand Island (38-6) 000 021 0—3 8 1
WP—Jaramillo (23-6). LP—Telecky (26-5). 2B—PLVS, Warren, Schendt; GI, Norvell. HR—PLVS, Warren (6); Jaramillo (6).