LINCOLN — Five fields filled with players hitting, fielding and chanting in the dugouts made Lincoln’s Doris Bair complex the destination of choice Thursday for the opening night of Nebraska’s 21st season of high school softball.
Lincoln Southeast swept a doubleheader from Norfolk, Papillion-La Vista South and Lincoln Southwest split a doubleheader, and Auburn defeated Lincoln High 14-5 in varsity games
The No. 3-ranked Knights proved they’re one of the squads expected to challenge Millard South in its quest for a third consecutive Class A title with the sweep of Norfolk. Southeast scored seven runs in the final two innings of game one to win 11-2 in six before a 9-1 win in five innings in the nightcap.
UNO recruit Jaylee Hinrichs gave up just four hits in the two games, striking out 12 in the opener and six in game two.
“Jaylee has been rock solid since day one,” Southeast coach Tim Roberson said. “When Norfolk scored on us, she threw harder and faster. She really stepped up for us.”
Hinrichs’ catcher Megan May, also a UNO recruit, had two home runs in the first game, including a blast to left field that cleared all three fences and cleared a hill Roberson estimated was “290 to 300 feet.”
Freshman Madison Otte was 4 for 4 in the opener with two doubles and a triple, and in game two junior Erin Lockhart had two home runs.
Papio South and Lincoln Southwest have played a season-opening doubleheader for several years, and Thursday’s games again showed both teams are capable of contending in the postseason.
Southwest won the opener 2-1 before the Titans scored five runs in the sixth to rally for a 9-8 win in the second game. After missing the state tournament last season for the first time since 2006, Silver Hawks coach Mark Watt said winning the first game provided a needed boost of confidence.
“We know we can compete with good teams now,” Watt said.
Sophomore Megan Deprez had the game-winning hit in the opener and cracked a two-run home run to left in the bottom of the seventh of game two that cut Papio South’s lead from 9-6 to one run.
Papio South took a 3-0 lead in the second inning of game two before Southwest battled back in the top of the third to go up 4-3. That advantage grew to 6-4 before the Titans took over.
Senior center fielder Paige Nekola had a three-run triple, and senior third baseman Paige Dennis followed with a two-run home run to put Papio South ahead 9-6.
“We’ve always had seniors step up and those two were big for us tonight,” Titans coach Dan Hogan said.