Taking their fair share of midseason lumps has led the Milford Eagles to the goal they set at the beginning of the softball season — a berth in the Class C state tournament.
Scoff all you want at their 15-14 record, but dig a little deeper and you find that less than half of the Eagles games were played against Class C foes. Milford finished 9-5 against those schools.
The Eagles were 5-5 against Class B competition and 1-4 against Class A. Milford has participated in both Lincoln pool play tournaments and the Elkhorn tournament since the Eagles started playing softball in 2000.
Milford coach Tom McCall said some of it is convenience — Milford is only 20 miles from Lincoln — but the biggest reason is the chance to play those bigger schools.
That mix has worked well as the Eagles have qualified for state eight of the past 13 seasons, but this year’s run was a bit different. Milford entered the District C-5 tournament as the fifth seed with a 9-13 record.
“Some years it works better than others,” McCall said. “When we first started the program, (Lincoln East coach) Lance Kingery invited us to play in their tournament, then there was an opening at the Lincoln Southeast tournament when we had a streak of really good seasons.
“Elkhorn offered us a chance to be in their tournament from the beginning. We haven’t shied away from anything.”
As the No. 8 seed, Milford will open play in the state tournament at 3 p.m. Wednesday against top-seed Wayne, another team that participates in the Lincoln East pool play tournament.
Milford and Wayne have met at state on three occasions, but the last time that happened the seniors on both squads were in junior high. McCall said it doesn’t matter who his Eagles play; they’re happy to have one of the eight spots and see how things work out.
“We are very excited to be there,” McCall said. “Whoever we play is great with us.”
One team that takes a similar scheduling approach is Southern Nebraska Conference rival Centennial, which earned one of the two Class C wild card berths.
The Broncos (19-12) played 21 of their 27 regular-season games against Class B opponents.
“They’re a conference school and we play them a lot,” McCall said of Centennial. “They’re Milford’s biggest rival in any sport.”
McCook also has history of traveling to face top competition, a move that paid off for the Bison again this season as they earned the No. 8 seed in the Class B tournament. It will be McCook’s 12th state tournament appearance and first since 2009.
For Milford, three juniors — first baseman Kira Ramirez, left fielder Allison Oborny and center fielder Alison Walla — have been the leaders of the offense most of the season.
With senior Briana Roth healthy after missing most of the season with elbow issues, the Eagles have a formidable 1-2 pitching punch with Roth and junior Breannah Weyers.
“That gives us a chance to show teams a little different look,” McCall said. “She’s only pitched 40 innings this season, but 16 of them were in districts.”
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