Elkhorn South harvested a bushel of quality at-bats Thursday night that produced an 8-0 Eastern Midlands Conference softball victory over Elkhorn.

Storm coach Terry Graver and his assistants have been emphasizing the need for making every plate appearance count. That’s because Elkhorn South is in a rugged district that features four of the state’s top six Class B teams.

“We’ve been talking to the kids about quality at-bats all season,” Graver said. “We got some walks and some timely hits tonight, and that really helped.”

Junior pitcher Nikki Schaefer earned the win with a two-hitter and nine strikeouts. Both of those singles came in the first inning, which was the only frame that Schaefer faced more than three batters.

No. 2-ranked Elkhorn went 18 up, 18 down in the last six innings as it fell to 1-2, while the fourth-ranked Storm improved to 4-1, including a 3-1 record for Schaefer.

“She’s been throwing at a high level all season,” Graver said. “She’s had between seven and 10 strikeouts in her three wins.”

Elkhorn South scratched out the game’s first run in the top of the third inning.

Sydney Graver and Kaitlyn King got things started with walks and were sacrificed to second and third by Nicole Vana. Maddy Ethen then reached on a fielder’s choice as Graver was caught in a rundown between third and home on a heads-up play by pitcher Laura Roecker.

Corrin Ziepke then stroked a single to right field to score King for the 1-0 Storm lead.

Elkhorn South scored two more runs with two outs in the fourth. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases, and then a wild pitch and passed ball brought home Nikki Hullinger and Katie Nawrocki for the 3-0 lead.

The Storm doubled their lead in the top of the fifth. The big hit in the inning was a single by Graver that scored Hullinger and Nawrocki.

Brittney Banks came in for Roecker in the fifth. All the runs were charged to Roecker but not all were earned because of an Antler error.

Roecker is still recovering from an arm injury and was on the mound for just her third game in the past seven weeks.

Elkhorn South’s final two runs came in the seventh. Olivia Ferrell reached on an error in center field and was doubled home by Hullinger, who scored on a passed ball.

Graver said Roecker “pitched at a high level tonight.” The Antlers offense couldn’t provide any support, which left coach Brad Beard frustrated.

“We didn’t put any pressure on them whatsoever,” Beard said. “We’re not making real confident swings right now. We have a lot of work to do. That’s not the team I’m used to seeing.”

Elkhorn South (4-1) ............................ 001 230 2—8 7 0

At Elkhorn (1-2) ............................ 000 000 0—0 2 2

W: Nikki Schaefer. L: Laura Roecker.

2B: ES, Nikki Hullinger.

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