It was beginning to look like Millard South would miss out on making the Metro Conference softball tournament semifinals.
But the Patriots had been in this spot earlier this season when they rallied to beat Blair in the Bellevue East Chieftain Invitational.
Knowing they had done it before helped Millard South do it again as the Patriots rallied from six runs down for an 8-7 victory over Millard North in one of Friday’s four Metro quarterfinal games at Papillion Landing.
“We’ve talked about these situations,” Millard South coach Steve Kerkman said. “When we get ahead of somebody we’ve always played well with a lead. When we’re down, we stay down.”
Getting up, dusting themselves off and finding an offensive spark in the final two innings puts the Patriots (11-2) into Monday’s 2 p.m. semifinal against Class A No. 2 Gretna at UNO. The 4:30 p.m. semifinal pits Papillion-La Vista against No. 1 Omaha Marian.
The winners of the semifinals will play for the championship at 7 p.m. Monday at UNO. In an odd scheduling twist, Millard South will host Gretna, and Papio and Marian also will have a rematch in regular-season games Thursday.
Top-seed Gretna defeated Elkhorn South 9-0 to earn its berth in the semis. Ensley Frame had three hits and Faith Mills had two to lead the Dragons offense, while Kalee Higdon and Mills both scored two runs.
Freshmen Allison McGee gave up three hits to earn the win, and senior Morgan Secora didn’t allow a hit in the final 2 2/3 innings to keep the potent Elkhorn South offense off-balance.
Marian shut out Omaha Burke 8-0 with another strong performance from the circle by junior ace Maddia Groff. Ten strikeouts Friday moved her season total to 124 for the season, but she also nearly doubled her walk total of five with four against a tight strike zone.
“The girls did a good job of adjusting to what they had to face,” Marian coach Chad Perkins said. “We’re getting better against some of the little things. Burke is so good at playing small ball, but we were able to get some good stops today.”
The four-time defending conference champion Monarchs earned a hard-fought 5-3 victory over slumping Millard West. The Wildcats started the season 6-0 but have gone 3-6 in their last nine games. Papio owns two victories over Millard West this season.
“We have been playing well the past six, seven games,” Papio coach Todd Petersen said. “The one thing we’ve tried to emphasize is that we want them to play consistently. The defense has been good and the pitching has been more consistent.”
That consistency is showing up even in recent setbacks. On Tuesday the Monarchs led Elkhorn South 5-1 before falling 6-5.
“They won it,” Petersen said. “It’s not like we did stupid things and lost the game. Our consistency is getting better and that’s all we can ask them to do.”
Petersen said freshman Carly Bertolini has worked her way into the role of staff ace. How effective Bertolini is will be a big part of Monday’s semifinal as the Monarchs try to break through against Groff.
For Gretna to advance to the Metro title game for the second time in three years, the Dragons pitchers must be leery of Millard South late-game rallies.
In the top of the fourth inning, Catelyn Rodenbiker and Nevaeh Williams led off with back-to-back singles. With one out Taylor Hrabik singled home Rodenbiker and a pinch-hit single by Kaitlyn Boge scored courtesy runner Maddie Rozmus.
Amari Lange then belted a three-run home run to left field to get the Patriots within 7-6. After Jessie Bentenlehner set Millard North down in order in the top of the fifth inning, Millard South found more late-inning magic.
With two outs Williams singled and Jalyn Noelle doubled, moving Williams to third base. Taylor Hrabik then crushed a walk-off double.
The Patriots were excited in the postgame meeting to be playing at UNO’s all-turf field Monday.
“It’s going to be a great atmosphere for everybody,” Kerkman said.