Gretna got off to a good start in its first competition as a Metro Conference member.
The Dragons scored eight runs in the top of the first inning, then survived a six-run fourth by Bellevue East to earn a 12-8 victory in front of an estimated crowd of 300 at the Lied Athletic Complex.
While its enrollment number pushed Gretna into Class A for the 2018-19 school year, the Dragons were still members of the Eastern Midlands Conference. It’s a similar path that Elkhorn South took when it moved from the EMC to the Metro two years ago.
“We’re glad we’re here,” Gretna coach Bill Heard said. “After being in Class A last year, it’s nice to be in the middle of it and see how things play out.”
All-Nebraska shortstop Billie Andrews got things started with a towering leadoff home run to left field for the fifth-ranked Dragons. It was the first game back for the Nebraska commit after she tore her ACL last September.
Hitting was contagious for the rest of the inning as Gretna sent 12 to the plate and finished with eight runs on five hits, four walks and an error.
“Billie has quite a big effect on the rest of our lineup,” Heard said. “It was the first varsity game for several of our kids, so it was nice to have her out there leading the way.”
Third baseman Kalee Higdon had two hits and two RBIs in the inning, while catcher Jenna Marshall and second baseman Ensley Frame each drove in a run. All three are sophomores.
Bellevue East got one of those runs back in the bottom of the first when Atiana Rodriguez singled and scored on an error. Gretna answered in the top of the second, when Marshall led off with a walk, stole second base and scored on a Mackenzie DeVine double.
The Dragons switched pitchers in the top of the fourth, and the Chieftains took advantage by sending 10 to the plate and scoring six runs on five hits. Grace Buffington came back to finish the inning and the game.
“We fought hard and finally got over those first-game jitters,” Bellevue East coach Casie Onken said. “They’re tough, and they’ve been good for a couple of years now.”
Gretna scored three in the top of the sixth to extend its lead to 12-7. The Chieftains finished the scoring with a single run in the bottom of the sixth.
The teams meet again at noon Friday in pool play at the Chieftain Invitational. The 14-team tournament concludes with the 2 p.m. championship game Saturday at Lied.
Gretna (1-0)…810 003 0 — 12
Bellevue East (0-1)…100 601 0 — 8
W: Grace Buffington, 1-0. L: Kathryn Cunningham, 0-1.
2B: G, Kalee Higdon, Mackenzie DeVine, Jenna Marshall, Kaelyn Fisher, Faith Mills; BE, Libby Walls. HR: G, Billie Andrews.
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IF — Billie Andrews (honorary captain), Gretna, junior, .469: Despite a season-ending knee injury in late September, the Nebraska pledge already proved she was the state’s best player. No defender has been able to change the look of a game the way Andrews has the past two seasons, especially in 2018. Whether it’s one of those ‘Only Billie can do that’ defensive plays or crushing some form of an extra-base hit even when pitchers are trying to place a pitch way outside, Andrews leads by example on and off the field. Andrews hit .469 with 20 extra-base hits, including nine home runs. She also collected 26 RBIs, scored 28 runs and stole 11 bases.
P — Jordyn Bahl, Papillion-La Vista, sophomore, 24-2: She dominated opponents for the second consecutive season until Southwest got to her on Championship Saturday. The Nebraska pledge was 24-2 with 261 strikeouts. Opposing pitchers weren’t afraid to pitch around her but Bahl still hit .489 with 11 home runs and 47 RBIs.
P — Victoria Kniesche, Wayne, junior, 30-0: The last time a pitcher from Wayne was posting this many shutouts, the Blue Devils won back-to-back Class C state championships — Molly Hill was the Wayne ace. In addition to a 30-0 record with 374 strikeouts and a 0.28 ERA, she batted .513 with four home runs and 42 RBIs.
C — Brooke Dumont, Papillion-La Vista, sophomore, .602: She is the quiet leader who deftly controls games as Bahl’s battery mate. In her second season as the Monarchs’ catcher, Dumont made no errors. Dumont was hitting over .650 at midseason and finished at .602 with 48 RBIs.
C — Emma Kauf, Lincoln Southwest, Sr., .570: Able to post impressive offensive numbers despite being walked 42 times, she set season records for home runs (22) and runs scored (81). The Georgia Tech recruit finished her career with 59 homers, 226 runs scored and a .535 batting average.
IF — Brooke Andrews, Gretna, senior, .541: When her little sister’s season ended early, Brooke moved to shortstop and elevated her game. In district and state tournament games, Andrews hit .733 to finish the season at .542. Four of her 11 home runs came in the postseason, including two in Gretna’s first Class A state tournament appearance.
IF — Madeline Vejvoda, Papillion-La Vista, senior, .566: The potent Papio lineup consistently had big innings start and continue with Vejvoda. The Creighton recruit hit .566 with 19 doubles, 11 home runs and 52 RBIs. She scored 56 runs and had a 1.172 slugging percentage.
IF — Bailey Urban, Millard South, senior, .495: The Wichita State pledge showed she is ready for the college game. Urban was a four-year starter and hit .495 as Millard South’s leadoff batter with 21 home runs, 51 RBIs, 51 runs and a slugging percentage of 1.319.
OF — Abbie Squier, Lincoln Southwest, junior, .512: Squier made several of the most pivotal plays of the state tournament — a grand slam, a three-run home run, then throwing out what would have been the tying run at the plate from center field to preserve the win. Almost half of Squier’s hits this season were for extra bases (12 doubles, three triples and 15 home runs).
OF — Emma Rosonke, Omaha Burke, junior, .548: She’s the sixth player from Burke, and the first since 2005, to make the All-Nebraska team. Rosonke will take a 29-game hitting streak into next season. She hit three of her nine home runs in postseason play. As leadoff hitter, Rosonke hit .548 with a 1.065 slugging percentage, stole 25 bases, scored 52 runs, had 30 RBIs and collected 51 hits, 11 were doubles.
OF — McKenzie Steiner, Lincoln Southwest, senior, .479: Steiner was outstanding for the Silver Hawks both as a center fielder and a pitcher. She was 22-2 and her 1.98 ERA. In the state championship game, she was 3-for-4 with two home runs, and she pitched the final four scoreless innings. Batting leadoff, she hit .479 with 64 runs scored and 36 RBIs on 13 doubles, two triples and 10 home runs.
DP — Ellie McCoy, Hastings, junior, .529: It was a record-setting year for McCoy as she helped the Tigers back to state for the fourth consecutive season. Her 24 home runs broke the state record for most round-trippers in a season, and McCoy also set Class B records with 68 runs scored and 69 RBIs. With 14 doubles, 20 stolen bases and a .529 batting average, the Missouri State commit put pressure on opposing defenses all season.
DP — Mia Jarecki, Papillion-La Vista, sophomore, .516: Jarecki was another defensive stalwart who also swung a big bat. Jarecki is another speed demon on the bases, collecting 11 doubles and scoring 51 runs in 36 games. She also hit for power – six home runs – and came up clutch with 32 RBIs and an .871 slugging percentage.