Millard South, Papillion-La Vista and Omaha Skutt all got off to impressive starts Saturday during the opening weekend of the high school softball season.
Despite dropping a 4-3 decision to Millard South, Omaha Marian also made a notable impression with a solid performance against the two-time defending Class A state champions.
The Monarchs and SkyHawks had easier times in their Saturday contests. After kicking off the season Friday with a 12-0 victory over Omaha Burke, No. 2 Papillion-La Vista defeated No. 6 Millard West 7-3.
Skutt started the day with a 7-0 win over Class B No. 1 Elkhorn. SkyHawks senior and Nebraska recruit Kaylan Jablonski threw a no-hitter with 11 strikeouts and also had two doubles, a stolen base, two walks, an RBI and two runs scored.
The Class B No. 3 SkyHawks also defeated Columbus 11-1 in four innings in the second game of their triangular at Skutt.
Millard South 4, Omaha Marian 3
Patriots catcher Madi Unzicker used her first swing of the season to set the Class A career record for home runs. The first inning line drive over the right-center field fence was Unzicker’s 24th career homer and gave Millard South a 1-0 lead.
“She’s as good a hitter as you’re going to see,” Marian coach Mike Heard said. “They’re an excellent team, so you just have to limit what they get as much as you can.”
The Patriots’ 1-0 advantage held up until Marian catcher Gabby Jonas took a pitch from Jordan Johnson just over the left field fence for a three-run home run in the top of the third inning. Jonas, who also doubled in the first, brought home Maggie Mainelli and Linsey Sanchez, who had reached with singles.
Millard South wasted little time getting those three runs back in the bottom of the third. With two outs, freshman Rylie Unzicker singled before sister Madi drew a walk from losing pitcher Kellyn Daly.
Vicky Kinney then singled to center to bring home Rylie Unzicker and moved sophomore Camille Fowler, Madi Unzicker’s courtesy runner, to third.
Jordyn Sturgeon’s two-run single brought home Fowler and Kinney with the tying and winning runs.
“We just have to buy in a little bit on hitting the ball the other way,” Patriots coach Steve Kerkman said. “What pitcher is going to throw us on the inside? We have to adjust and get better, and we started doing that in the third.”
Daly went inside often enough to strike out Millard South hitters nine times. Kerkman said Daly did a good job of using outside pitches to set up inside strike three pitches.
Omaha Skutt 7, Elkhorn 0
Jablonski used a myriad of pitches against Elkhorn en route to her 11 strikeouts and seven innings of no-hit ball.
“She had ’em all going today,” Elkhorn coach Brad Beard said. “In, out, up, down. We made some better swings as the day went on, but when she’s pitching that way, she’s lights-out good.”
Skutt opened the scoring in the third inning when Katie Perkins led off with a walk and Jablonski took the first pitch from Elkhorn’s Laura Roecker to left-center field for a double that brought Perkins home.
Jablonski then moved to third on a throw to home trying to get Perkins, and she scored when Darya Kaboli-Nejad singled up the middle. Jablonski scored again in the bottom of the fourth after being intentionally walked with two outs and no one on base.
“I think in most cases when she pitches like that, if we can score a couple of runs we’ll be in good shape,” Skutt coach Keith Engelkamp said. “Pitchers always have an advantage earlier in the season, so we all know things will be a lot more difficult when it gets to districts.”
Papillion-La Vista 7, Millard West 3
The Monarchs jumped to a 7-1 lead after four innings. Sophomore third baseman Emma Dargy had her second two-run home run in as many nights, and junior second baseman Amanda Butera had a two-run blast of her own.
Sophomore first baseman Sam Dellinger and junior pitcher Julia Andersen also had two hits apiece against the Wildcats. Andersen scattered six hits and took advantage of the cushion the Monarchs’ offense gave her, a luxury she didn’t have as often last season.
“I was pleased with the way we played in all phases of the game,” Papio coach Todd Petersen said. “We played aggressive. This doesn’t tell us a lot yet except some of the things we need to work on.”
Petersen said the win also was a big boost for the Monarchs because they didn’t defeat the Wildcats last season. All nine of their losses came against the state’s top three teams — Millard South, Papillion-La Vista South and Millard West.