HASTINGS, Neb. — In the final round of the seasonlong bout between Class A's two heavyweights, Millard South landed a flurry of 10 punches that won't be forgotten.
The Patriots scored 10 runs in the sixth inning of the Class A state championship game to knock out Papillion-La Vista 13-4 in six innings at the Smith Softball Complex.
The Patriots (32-4) took control and overwhelmed the Monarchs (34-3) for their third consecutive Class A title.
“It was like a heavyweight fight with the two best teams battling each other back and forth,” Millard South coach Steve Kerkman said. “The girls kept putting pressure on them and it all just came together. In the first game, that's what they did to us.”
The Monarchs erased a 2-0 lead in the first championship bracket game with three runs in both the third and fourth innings on the way to a 7-4 win that forced the extra game to decide that championship. Millard South entered that game undefeated in the tournament.
“We played really well today,” Monarchs coach Todd Petersen said. “The girls competed hard the whole day. There's no doubt the top two teams in the state were playing, and that makes it even more exciting.”
The Patriots had not defeated Papillion this season until the teams arrived in Hastings. The Monarchs won the three regular-season matchups, but Millard South erased many of those memories with a 9-1, six-inning victory Thursday.
Millard South pitcher Jordan Johnson said she spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make the Monarchs miss as they tried to land some of the big hits that had been a hallmark of their season.
“I worked on making them mishit,” Johnson said. “I was trying to miss my spots by a lot and wasn't trying to get strikeouts. I just wanted them to make contact in the wrong spots.”
Johnson's strategy worked well enough that the Monarchs had trouble stringing together a series of hits for a big inning that could have turned the tide in Papillion's favor.
Papillion struck first in the bottom of the second with two runs. All-Nebraska center fielder Gina Metzler tripled to deep center to plate those two runs.
The Patriots responded in the top of the third when freshman Rylie Unzicker led off with a single to right and her senior sister Madi was hit by a pitch from Papio's Julia Andersen. Shortstop Vicky Kinney came up and promptly sent a three-run home run over the temporary fence in left-center field.
Millard South had a chance to add to its lead in the fourth, but left the bases loaded when Papio second baseman Amanda Butera make a nice running, backhanded catch that saved at least two runs.
Papio tied the game in the bottom of the fourth, then went ahead 4-3 in the fifth in large part thanks to a three-base error on a throw to first base. Andersen sped around to third, and her courtesy runner Jordan Kimball came home on an infield groundout.
Then came the 10-punch flurry that knocked out any hope the Monarchs had of winning the school's 14th state softball title. Millard South sent 16 batters to the plate and had eight hits and two walks.
Doubles by Jordyn Sturgeon and Natalie Wilson, along with a home run by Emily Hove, were the blows that did the most damage to Papio's chances.
Kerkman said each of the three consecutive titles had a little different twist to them. This one is that the seniors have been a part of teams that have played in four state title games and emerged victorious in the last three.
“They're all special, especially when you're dealing with a lot of the same kids,” Kerkman said. “We have an expectation for all of our players, even those who are coming off the bench. Those expectations were met.”
Millard South (32-4) ................................... 003 001 0—13 14 2
Papillion-La Vista (34-3) ............................ 020 110—4 10 5
W: Jordan Johnson. L: Julia Andersen. 2B: MS, Jordyn Sturgeon, Natalie Wilson. 3B: PLV, Gina Metzler. HR: MS, Vicky Kinney, Emily Hove.
Papillion-La Vista 7, Millard South 4
The Monarchs forced the extra game for the Class A title by roughing up the Patriots for three runs apiece in the third and fourth innings. Lauren McNeil had three hits for Papio and Madi Unzicker hit a pair of two-run home runs for the Patriots.
Papillion-La Vista 11, Millard West 1, 5 inn.
The Monarchs led 3-1 through four inning then exploded for eight runs in the top of the fifth to end the game two innings early. Emma Dargy hit her third home run of the tournament, and Kylie Schwarting, Sam Dellinger and Julia Andersen all had doubles.