Elkhorn South's 4-3 victory over Norris on a late September Monday had the twists and turns suited for a mid-October postseason showdown.
Two of the state's top Class B schools dueled on a breezy night at Elkhorn South in what could be the first of multiple meetings between the Eastern Midlands Conference rivals. No. 1-ranked Elkhorn South won this round, but Storm coach Terry Graver said it just as easily could have gone to the No. 7 Titans.
“I told the girls at practice Friday that this is when it gets fun,” Graver said. “It did feel like a state tournament game. This game could have gone either way.”
Graver and Norris coach Dave Carpenter said games like Monday's will come in handy when district play begins Oct. 10. The teams are in different districts but focused on the same goal — qualifying for the Oct. 16 to 18 state tournament in Hastings.
“The biggest thing we can take from this game is you have to compete every inning,” Carpenter said. “You can't take a play off or the other team will take advantage of it, especially a team as good as Elkhorn South.”
Graver had similar praise for the Titans (16-5), who defeated No. 3 Omaha Skutt on Saturday in what Carpenter said was a similar type of game.
Norris jumped ahead 2-0 in the top of first inning when second baseman Hannah Evans tripled to left after a sliding attempt for the ball didn't work out. Evans eventually scored on a wild pitch.
Then with two outs, Titans pitcher Michaela Woodward hit a solo home run over the left-field fence that had enough momentum to roll up the berm just behind the fence nearly 220 feet away.
Elkhorn South wasted no time coming back. Two errors and a single loaded the bases for freshman cleanup hitter Olivia Ferrell, who grounded out but brought home leadoff hitter Nicole Vana. The Storm (18-2) had a chance to tie the game or take the lead but stranded three runners.
The Storm tied the game 2-2 in the bottom of the third when third baseman Corrin Ziepke stroked a leadoff home run to left field.
In the fourth, the Storm took a 3-2 lead but again left the bases loaded.
With two outs, No. 9 hitter Kaitlyn King singled and Vana walked before Maddy Ethen doubled King home.
Norris tied the game in the top of the fifth when Janelle Adams had a two-out single and shortstop Dani Pelini singled to keep things going. Evans then had an RBI single to plate Adams.
Elkhorn South scored what proved to be the winning run in the bottom of the sixth. Ethen had a one-out single and scored on a two-out double to straightaway center field by Ferrell. The Titans had a chance to keep the game going in the top of the seventh but stranded two runners.
“We have a deep lineup and we needed every bit of that against (Woodward),” Graver said. “I thought we battled really well. She's as good as there is in Class B.”
Norris (16-5) ............................................. 200 010 0 —3 6 3
At Elkhorn South (18-2) ............................ 101 101 x—4 7 0
W: Nikki Schaefer. L: Michaela Woodward. 2B: N, Woodward. ES, Maddy Ethen, Sydney Graver, Olivia Ferrell. 3B: N, Hannah Evans. HR: N, Woodward. ES, Corrin Ziepke.