HASTINGS, Neb. — As Gretna and Lincoln Southwest advanced in the winners bracket Wednesday during the first day at the Class A state tournament, it sets up a rare occurrence: teams that haven’t played each other during the regular season.
The No. 1 Silver Hawks and No. 2 Dragons have been the only teams atop the ratings all season. Southwest just moved to that spot after Gretna struggled last week in district play and needed the wild-card berth to make the tournament.
All those elements are expected to make for an intense showdown in Thursday’s 4:30 p.m. game at the Smith Softball Complex in which the winner advances to Friday’s 2 p.m. title game.
Southwest rallied from a three-run deficit to defeat Millard North 5-3 while Gretna erased a 4-2 deficit with three runs in the last two innings to send two-time defending state champs Papillion-La Vista to the elimination bracket with a 5-4 victory.
Gretna’s victory was the second time that the Monarchs have lost a second-round game in 27 years. Papio extended its 27-game winning streak in the first round earlier Wednesday with a 14-4 win over Lincoln East. The Dragons opened the tournament with a 10-2, six-inning victory over Norfolk in which they scored seven runs in the last inning.
Dragon coach Bill Heard said how the players responded this week after such a disappointing weekend was satisfying because there wasn’t much the staff had to do to get the players refocused. Papillion-La Vista South defeated Gretna twice to win the A-1 district with a 14-16 record.
“That was very little of me,” Heard said. “The seniors talked Monday. I told our coaches how good I felt about our team at that point. They really care. We didn’t handle last week very well. It doesn’t matter. There’s eight teams in it; you’re one of them.”
Papio (21-11) jumped to a 2-0 lead in the rematch of the Metro Conference championship by scoring once in each of the first two innings. That was the time Monarch coach Todd Petersen said his team needed to get more runs in as they collected five hits against starter Alexis Jensen.
“We had opportunities earlier that we needed to capitalize on,” Petersen said. “But they’re a good team. It’s not because we didn’t try. We had bases loaded two or three times, so we needed to get a couple of more runs in to get some padding.”
The No. 4 Monarchs left 12 runners on base and didn’t have an extra base hit despite outhitting the Dragons 10-8. It was a big hit by Ensely Frame in the bottom of the sixth that produced the winning run.
Gretna (29-5) used all three of its top pitchers to secure the victory.
Senior Morgan Secora came in for Jensen, pitching one inning before giving way to Allison McGee, who threw the final 3.2 innings and allowed two hits and one walk with four strikeouts.
Millard North took a 3-0 lead in the top of the third inning thanks to a pair of home runs. Lynn Davis led off with a double to center field.
Pitcher Desi Cuevas then stepped in and belted a two-run home run to center field.
Then with one out, junior shortstop Katherine Johnson got in on the long ball fun with her team-leading 17th home run of the season.
The Silver Hawks clawed two of those runs back in the bottom of the third and tied the game in the fifth inning when Taylor Fritz, who led off by reaching on an error, scored on a passed ball.
It was Fritz who had the winning hit, a two-run single that scored Anna Reiling and Kennadi Williams as the Silver Hawks improved to 38-6.
Southwest coach Mark Watt said he talked about some hitting adjustments when the team came off the field after the third inning. That was his way of telling them there was no reason to panic.
“I would have said that regardless of the score,” Watt said. “It just sends the message that we’re fine.”
Papillion-La Vista South (14-17)…000 004 0 – 4 6 3
Lincoln Southwest (37-6)…210 202 x – 7 10 1
W-Bailey Selvage (15-4). L-Abigail Dworak (7-5). 2B-PLVS, Addyson Buhman; LSW, Taylor Korecky, Ashley Smetter. HR-PLVS, Clare Ullery.
Millard North (23-9)…642 – 12 7 1
Millard South (22-11)…000 – 0 0 6
W-Desi Cuevas (19-8). L-Jessie Bestenlehner (16-10). HR-Hayden Nelson, Katherine Johnson.
Papillion-La Vista (22-10)…003 080 3 – 14 16 0
Lincoln East (31-9)…220 000 0 – 4 6 1
W-Carly Bertolini (13-5). L-Campbell Petrick (13-4). 2B-PLV, Emma McGrath, Mo Wills, Madeline Delos Reyes; LE, Emilee Haggadone, Morgan Adams. HR-PLV, Alexandria Stoner (2), Haley Wilwerding (2), Eden Ford; LE, Haggadone.
Norfolk (28-15)…000 101 – 2 5 3
Gretna (27-5)…002 017 – 10 9 3
W-Allison McGee (8-0). L-Jessica Schmidt (20-10). 2B-N, Taylor Schmidt. HR-G, Faith Mills, Alexis Jensen.
Papillion-La Vista (22-11)…110 200 0 – 4 10 3
Gretna (29-5)…001 121 x – 5 8 3
W-Allison McGee (8-0). L-Carly Bertolini (13-6). HR-G, Ellie Grauboski.
Millard North (23-10)…003 000 0 – 3 4 2
Lincoln Southwest (38-6)…002 012 x – 5 8 1
W-Bailey Selvage 16-4). L-Desi Cuevas (19-9). 2B-MN, Lynn Davis. HR-MN, Cuevas, Katherine Johnson.