The anticipated pitchers duel between Gretna and Omaha Marian delivered on that Thursday to open the high school softball season.
With two of the state’s top returning hurlers combining for 27 strikeouts, it took a pair of bunts by Gretna for the Top 10 No. 3 Dragons to eke out a 2-1, eight-inning victory.
Gretna sophomore Alexis Jensen struck out 15 while Marian senior Maddia Groff had 12. And neither coach was surprised that the combined run total was so small.
Jensen has made big strides since the end of the 2021 season and Groff entered her final high school campaign with 716 career strikeouts.
“Talking before the game our coaches said if somebody gets to two runs, they’re probably going to win the game,” Dragon coach Bill Heard said. “Maddia is so talented, and she has worked so hard for everything she’s earned.
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“Ninety-nine (Jensen’s jersey number), it was a big night for her. She’s ready for it. She also has been working hard to get to this point. She’s prepared.”
With nine of the first 12 outs in the first two innings being strikeouts, the tone was set. Both teams scored in the third inning.
Marian designated player Zoe Kassmeyer led of the top of the third with a walk, moved to second on an infield groundout and advanced to third on a wild pitch before scoring on an RBI single by shortstop Reagan Dreibelbis.
The Dragons would respond quickly as second baseman Skarlett Jones led off with a double and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Anniston Trevarrow before scoring on a sacrifice fly by All-Nebraska infielder Faith Mills.
That was all the scoring until the eighth, when each team started with a runner on second. Groff was Marian’s designated runner, but thanks to three strikeouts by Jensen, the Southern Illinois commit was unable to advance.
Gretna then went to small ball to push across the winning run in the bottom of the frame. With Jones at second to begin the inning, Trevarrow laid down her second bunt of the game to move Jones to third.
After Mills was intentionally walked, Megan Marshall rolled a bunt down the third-base line past the charging defense that stayed fair and allowed Jones, who scored both of Gretna’s runs, to safely race home to end it.
“Our thing is we got base runners in position, we just but couldn’t get them in,” Marian coach Chad Perkins said. “Bill and I coach a summer team together, so we knew what Alexis was capable of doing.”
Both teams are participating in the Bellevue East Chieftain Invitational on Friday and Saturday at the Lied Complex.
Omaha Marian (0-1) 001 000 00—1 5 0
At Gretna (1-0) 001 000 01—2 7 0
W: Alexis Jensen (1-0). L: Maddia Groff (0-1). 2B: OM, Rylinn Groff; G, Skarlett Jones. A: 250 (est.).