HASTINGS, Neb. — Win one more battle and Papillion-La Vista reaches another unprecedented level.
The top-ranked Monarchs are one victory away from the first undefeated softball season in Class A history after defeating Elkhorn 8-0 in five innings Thursday in the Class A winners bracket.
Papio is 35-0 heading into Friday’s 2 p.m. championship game against either No. 2 Elkhorn or No. 5 Gretna. The Dragons advanced through the elimination bracket, defeating defending Class A champion Lincoln Southwest 8-0 in five innings before outslugging No. 8 Millard West 16-13.
Elkhorn and Gretna — former rivals in Eastern Midlands Conference — will play an 11:30 a.m. elimination game at the Smith Softball Complex for a berth in final.
“Old EMC, here we go,” Gretna coach Bill Heard said. “Whatever we’ve got in the tank, we do. I know we’ll show up and compete. Past that, we’ll see how it goes.”
Elkhorn coach Al Schutte said the conversation with his players after the loss was about making sure they retained their focus and prepare for a busy day.
“I told the girls we can sulk in this, we can let it get to us, or we can look at it as a new day tomorrow,” Schutte said. “Take Game 1 and hopefully have another Game 2 and force a Game 3 tomorrow. The sun will come up tomorrow, and we’ll see what we can do.”
Papillion-La Vista ace Jordyn Bahl pitched her third no-hitter of the tournament, giving up one walk and striking out 11. The Oklahoma commit said the way every Monarch in the lineup is playing makes this run a total team effort.
“Everyone’s been playing really great, we’ve been getting really good team wins,” Bahl said. “We’ve just been focused on one game at a time, basically treating the tournament as a war where there’s several little battles. Each game is another battle.”
The bottom half of the Papio lineup has been opportunistic throughout the tournament, as it has much of the season. Center fielder Kate Voisin has two home runs, and though the Monarchs didn’t get an extra-base hit off Elkhorn’s Sydney Nuismer, they used their speed to manufacture eight runs.
“They’ve been getting some big hits,” Papillion-La Vista coach Todd Petersen said. “We don’t really have a weak spot in our lineup, which is good to see. The other thing that’s helped us is that we have a ton of speed, and they run the bases smart. It kind of takes the pressure off and we can play free.”
Voisin had four RBIs against the Antlers (29-4), and No. 8 hitter Haley Wilwerding drove in two runs. The Monarchs had just five hits but put enough pressure on the Elkhorn defense that the Antlers committed three errors.
“The entire lineup has been stepping up,” Bahl said. “When we got our first two runs, that was the bottom half of our lineup. Everyone’s stepping up. They’ve been solid all year ‘round. It’s awesome that you can rely on anyone in your lineup. There’s no drop-off.”
There was a scary moment in the third inning when Bahl hit a hard line drive back to Nuismer. Schutte said the ball hit Nuismer in the abdomen, but she held on to it to preserve the out before falling to the dirt.
After being checked out by the tournament trainers, Nuismer took a warmup pitch but didn’t leave the game.
“She’s a tough kid, man,” Petersen said. “I don’t know where that hit her, but it didn’t hit the glove first. For her to be able to come back and throw is amazing.”
Papio not only is looking to complete an undefeated season, it’s looking to atone for entering the final day of the 2018 tournament in the same position, only to lose twice to Lincoln Southwest.
Both Bahl and Petersen said the Monarchs are ready for the challenge.
“Being a pitcher, I feel like pitchers always carry a lot of weight because you have the ball every single play,” Bahl said. “It just feels different than last year because everyone just feels more confident. We’re just a more mature team than last year.”
That mindset is what makes Petersen is optimistic that things will be different this time.
“She’s on a mission, you can tell,” Petersen said of Bahl. “She just keeps getting stronger and stronger. She just knows she can’t let up. There isn’t a lot to tell her when she’s out there, just let her do her job.”
Elkhorn (29-4)......................000 00—0 0 3
Papillion-La Vista (35-0)........024 02—8 5 1
W: Jordyn Bahl (26-0). L: Sydney Nuismer (27-4).
Gretna (27-9)..................334 003 3—16 13 4
Millard West (22-13).........001 550 2—13 17 8
W: Grace Buffington (16-6). L: Jayda VanAckeren (10-5). 2B: G, Ensley Frame; MW, Ava Rongisch, Delaney Richardson 2, Skyler Spreitzer 2. HR: G, Jayden Haley 2, Jerzi Rowe; MW, Olivia Richardson 2, Delaney Richardson, Bella Bacon.
Omaha Marian (22-7).........201 020 0—5 9 1
Millard West (22-12)..........002 100 3—6 11 4
W: Rylee Johnson (5-0). L: Abigayle Russell (2-4). 2B: OM, Megan Lawson; MW, Ava Rongisch, Skyler Spreitzer. HR: MW, Olivia Richardson, Rongisch, Reese Peterson.
Lincoln Southwest (28-10)........000 00—0 0 1
Gretna (26-9).........................002 33—8 10 0
W: Grace Buffington (15-6). L: Kelsey Kobza (18-6). HR: G, Jayden Haley, Billie Andrews, Kalee Higdon.
Millard West (21-12)............009 001 2—12 10 3
Millard South (25-10)...........101 001 2— 5 9 4
W: Jayda VanAckeren (10-5). L: Jaclyn Morrissey (14-6). 2B: MW, Jayci Reimers, Ava Rongisch, Honnah Leo; MS, Taylor Hrabik, Abby Gerdes. HR: MW, Olivia Richardson, Delaney Richardson.
Lincoln North Star (28-12)...........050 00— 5 6 4
Lincoln Southwest (28-9)............070 06—13 10 0
W: Kelsey Kobza (18-5). L: Hanna Roth (14-6). 2B: LNS, Kylie Shottenkirk; LSW, Emma Hain Abbie Squier. 3B: LNS, Carly Dembowski. HR: LNS, Roth; LSW, Skylar Pieper.