• Photo Showcase: Nebraska state softball
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HASTINGS, Neb. — After battling back through the elimination bracket two years ago, Millard South understood the task Papillion-La Vista South was facing Friday at the state softball tournament.
So Millard South coach Steve Kerkman wanted the Patriots to come out swinging and build an early lead on the Titans in the Class A championship game.
Millard South did just that, pounding out six runs on five hits in the first inning en route to a 12-1, four-inning victory over Papio South at the Smith Softball Complex.
The Titans lost ace pitcher Jackie Jaramillo on the third at-bat when a line drive by Vicky Kinney caromed off Jaramillo's pitching hand. The sophomore tried a few practice pitches later in the game, but Papio South coach Dan Hogan said Jaramillo was unable to grip the ball.
Jaramillo's absence also was a big loss to the Titans' offense. But the way Millard South was attacking on offense and stopping everything on defense — the Patriots didn't commit an error in their last two games — a Papio South rally would have been tough to pull off.
“We played four games, and they played seven,” Kerkman said. “That's why last night's game (a 6-3 win over Papillion-La Vista in the winners bracket) was so important.”
The victory allowed the 29-5 Patriots to successfully defend their 2011 state title and was the third in school history. Papio South finished 29-8 and reached the final for the first time in eight trips to state.
The Titans reached the championship game after a stirring 7-5 victory over Papillion-La Vista in the last elimination bracket game Friday. The game was tied 3-3 heading into the seventh inning when the Titans broke things open with a grand slam by freshman Brittney Schmiedt into a strong south wind.
Schmiedt then homered in the loss to Millard South, a blast that allowed Papio South to set the all-class record for home runs in a season with 45.
That was the lone offensive bright spot for the Titans in the title game. Millard South sent 11 batters to the plate in the first inning, including walks to Chloe Boeka and Madi Unzicker by Jaramillo before Kinney's line drive off Jaramillo's hand loaded the bases.
Freshman Madison Finley then came in to pitch the rest of the game for Papio South after seeing limited duty during the regular season.
Jordyn Sturgeon and Leah Kalfwarf followed with RBI singles before the Patriots made their first out. A fielder's choice by Natalie Wilson got Sturgeon home, and then Val Kinney hit a slow roller along the first base line to get another run home and make the score 4-0.
In her second at-bat of the inning, Boeka hit a two-run single that made it 6-0.
While so many other teams were using the long ball to score, Kerkman noted that the Patriots had just one home run in their four games. All 15 of Millard South's hits in the championship game were singles.
Millard South's error-free defense supported another strong pitching outing from sophomore Jordan Johnson. she gave up just two hits, the home run by Schmiedt and a first-inning single to Paige Nekola.
“I think there's a big difference in pitching high school ball because every game is so important,” Kerkman said. “Jordan learned that as the season went on and just continued to get better.”
Johnson said that support from her defense this season made her realize how important all nine players on the field are in making a state championship run.
“We have so many girls who can hit it, and we just played our game,” Johnson said. “We did a great job starting offensively, and it just built from there.”
Millard South (29-5) ................. 614 1—12 15 0
Papillion-La Vista South (29-8) .................. 010 0—1 2 1
W: Jordan Johnson. L: Jackie Jaramillo. HR: P, Brittney Schmiedt.
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