If games at the state softball tournament at all resemble some of the outcomes from last week’s district tournament battles, fans are going to be in for some long and likely exciting games.
With pitching seemingly at a premium, this is shaping up to be one of the most offensive tournaments of the past decade. Big run totals weren’t limited to early-round games when No. 1 seeds were facing outmatched opponents.
These big numbers were being posted in semifinal and championship games, at times resembling low-scoring football games or the first-quarter score from a basketball game.
The B-7 district championship round in Scottsbluff had final scores of 11-10 and 14-12. After losing the first game 7-6, Norris battled back to defeat Beatrice 10-9 and 12-7.
In the A-2 final, Lincoln Southwest needed to score six runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and win 11-10 to avoid a second game with Lincoln Pius X. In the A-5 final, Millard South had to rally late to defeat Millard West 10-8. Five of the seven Class A district champions finished with double-digit run totals in their victories.
After getting roughed up 14-3 in the first game of the C-8 tournament, Cozad rallied to beat Auburn 15-12 and 9-8. Following an 11-1 win in the first C-5 game, Malcolm gave up nine runs to Arlington but scored 17 of its own to qualify for state.
With conditions throughout the three-day tournament in Hastings expected to be both windy and colder than what players and fans have been used to all season, don’t expect the bats to cool off. When a team must play two or three games in one day, that takes a bigger toll on pitchers rather than hitters.
What feels like a wave of parity that has washed over the top teams in all three classes has the power to produce some long games with high scores. If you’re planning to sit through some of those at the Smith Softball Complex, it would be a good idea to bring an extra blanket for those early-morning and evening games.
Omaha Skutt is four wins away from completing the first undefeated season in the 25-year history of the Class B tournament.
The SkyHawks have had a pair of one- and two-run victories in their 29-0 run through the regular season and district tournaments. They defeated Class A No. 2 Gretna 4-3 and Class B No. 2 Hastings 1-0, with two-run victories over Omaha Marian (2-0) in the season opener and 4-2 over Grand Island in late September.
In a streak of nine games beginning with a 10-0 decision over Elkhorn South, Skutt has given up just one run. That came in the first inning of the SkyHawks’ 11-1 victory over O’Neill in the first game of the district B-1 tournament. Skutt won Game 2 11-0 to earn the chance to defend its 2020 title.
The closest a Class B team has come to finishing a season undefeated was the 2007 Elkhorn squad, which went 30-1 and beat Beatrice 3-2 for the Antlers’ fourth consecutive state title.
Elkhorn was 30-2 in 2006, and the 2016 Elkhorn South team, which defeated Gretna 9-2 in the championship game, finished 31-2. All three of those championship teams were coached by Terry Graver.
Led by three Power Five conference recruits in twin sisters Hannah and Lauren Camenzind (Arkansas) and Ruby Meylan (Washington), Skutt is focused on winning the school’s fourth state softball title.
Meylan is 15-0 with a 0.37 ERA and a .527 batting average. Hannah Camenzind is 14-0 with a 1.23 ERA and a .658 batting average. Lauren Camenzind is hitting .468 and has 11 home runs. With the midseason addition of Elkhorn transfer Paige Roessner at catcher, the SkyHawks have managed to become a stronger defensive team.
Expect Hastings and Bennington to present the strongest challengers to Skutt’s title hopes. It’s not an accident that for the first time in the history of the sport, Class B teams occupy the top three spots in The World-Herald’s all-class Top 10.
Papillion-La Vista is putting a winning streak of its own on the line in Wednesday’s first-round Class A game against Lincoln East.
The Monarchs, the only program to qualify for all 29 state tournaments, have won 26 consecutive first-round games dating to 1995. Papio has been almost as impressive in the second round over that same stretch, with a 25-1 record. The one loss was to Omaha Westside in 2009.
That’s 51-1 in the first two rounds for 26 years. Papio has done that many times as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. If they hope to improve either or both of those record runs, the Monarchs will have to do it as the No. 6 seed.
Only twice since winning their first of 16 state softball titles in 1995 have the Monarchs entered the state tournament with a double-digit loss total. The ’95 team was 34-10 when it defeated Ralston 6-2 for the A title, and the 2005 Papio team, which finished as runner-up to Millard South, ended that season 26-13.
The last time Papio didn’t make it to the championship game was 2014. Having played in 22 championship games, the Monarchs are 22-6 all time. In the first two years of the tournament, Papio went 1-2 in 1993 and 1-2 in 1994.
This tournament makes Hastings the city that has hosted the most state softball tournaments.
The first 14 years were played at Seymour Smith Park in southwest Omaha. With the addition of Class B in 1997 and Class C in 2001, the tournament eventually outgrew its home and moved to Hastings in 2007.