HASTINGS, Neb. — When it comes to Wahoo and Wahoo Neumann, there are no softball secrets.
The teams practice on adjacent fields at Hackberry Park, and they’ve matched skills as opponents four times before Thursday’s Class C state softball tournament winners bracket game.
Neumann won three of those four, including two less than a week ago at the District C-2 tournament. But on the biggest stage — the Smith Softball Complex — it was the Warriors who emerged victorious.
Wahoo raced to a 6-0 lead, responded to Neumann’s five-run sixth inning with four in the bottom half and earned a berth in the state title game for the third time in four years with a 10-5 victory.
Warriors coach Trina Christen said that recent state experience is a plus. Neumann is making its first state tournament appearance since 2007.
“I think it plays a big part in it,” Christen said. “The girls were super relaxed. We were a little tense the first game, but each game as we’ve moved along we have improved.”
Wahoo will face the winner of Friday’s 11:30 a.m. elimination game between Neumann and Wayne, which eliminated West Point GACC and Southern after losing to Wahoo Thursday morning.
The championship game is scheduled for 2 p.m. If Wahoo loses that game, a second for the title would be played 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.
Christen said the biggest difference in what happened last week at districts and Wahoo’s success on Thursday was the offense getting off to a fast start.
Much of that had to do with Taylor Otte. The senior shortstop led off the first with a single to left, stole second and scored on a two-out single by Shauna Tweedy.
The Warriors scored twice in both the second and third innings and added one more in the fourth for that 6-0 lead. Tweedy led the Wahoo offense with three hits and two RBIs, and Otte and Kelsi Anderson both had two hits.
“We got on it early with our hitting,” Christen said. “Hitting is a contagious thing. She (Otte) is our leader, and the rest of the team feels they can do it when she gets us started.”
Three singles, a double by Taylor Benes and one Wahoo error sparked Neumann’s sixth-inning rally.
Madison Partridge’s home run was the biggest hit in the bottom of the sixth as Wahoo ran its lead back to five runs.
“When I took that timeout it was 6-3,” Christen said. “We had seven seniors, five of them are three-year starters, and they all said, ‘it’s still our game.’ That was a big part in keeping everyone relaxed.”
Wahoo Neumann (27-7) ............................ 000 005 0—5 10 4
Wahoo (28-6) ............................ 122 104 x—10 13 1
W-Michaela Miller. L-Jessica Briley. 2B-WN, Carly Brousek, Taylor Benes; W, Kelsey Tomjack. HR-W, Madison Partridge.
Wayne 8, Southern 2
After Southern opened the game with one run, Wayne responded with three in the bottom of the first and two more in the second to take control. Jalyn Zeiss was 3 for 3 with three runs scored, while Victoria Kranz and Abigail Hix had two RBIs apiece for the Blue Devils.