Class B state softball: Seward, Wayne, Beatrice and Crete advance to winners bracket

Hastings' Faith Molina steals second base ahead of the throw to Wayne's Kayla Fleming. 

HASTINGS, Neb. — Another dominant day from Tori Kniesche and a spectacular inning of hitting Wednesday kept Wayne and Beatrice in the winners bracket after the first day of the Class B state tournament.

Kniesche struck out 19 in Wayne’s first-round victory over Hastings before striking out 11 in a five-inning, 8-0 win over Seward.

Beatrice trailed Crete 8-3 heading into the fifth in the winners bracket game before the Lady Orange rallied for 13 runs on 10 hits to end the game early with a 16-8 victory.

Those victories set up a 4:30 p.m. showdown Thursday between Beatrice and Wayne, with the winner guaranteed a spot in Friday’s 2 p.m. championship. The second-ranked Lady Orange were the Class B runner-up in 2018 while Wayne won its third Class C crown last year.

“Tori Kniesche is a great pitcher,” Beatrice coach Gary Lytle said. “We’ll have to find a way to manufacture some runs probably, and let our bats do the work. The main thing is going to be to come out and play defense. If our bats can find a couple runs, I think we’ll have a good shot.”

The teams didn’t play in the regular season. Wayne coach Rob Sweetland said that could be an advantage for the fourth-ranked Blue Devils.

“We get back to where they haven’t seen Tori,” Sweetland said. “It’s a different look. We’re just happy to be in that game, and you know you’re going to get a good team.”

Seward posted the biggest upset of the tournament when the No. 8 seed Bluejays took the momentum from three solo home runs to send No. 1 Omaha Skutt into the elimination bracket with a 7-1 victory.

The seventh-ranked Bluejays became the second Class B No. 8 seed to upset the top seed in the first round — McCook defeated Elkhorn South 9-5 in 2017. That season, each of the four higher seeds lost to the lower seed in the first round.

Day 2 of the tournament will begin with a pair of elimination games at 9 a.m. Skutt will play Hastings, with the winner facing Crete in a second elimination game at 11:30 a.m.

Omaha Gross and Norris meet in the other 9 a.m. game, with the winner advancing to play Seward at 11:30. The winners of the 11:30 a.m. games will play at 4:30 p.m. in a third elimination game that will trim the field to three.

Beatrice opened with a 4-0 win over Norris. The Lady Orange got four hits, but all were solo homers. Addison Barnard, Carley Leners, Reganne Henning and Tavia Hausman did the damage.

Crete scored three runs in each of the first two innings against Gross, then ended the game early with four runs in the bottom of the sixth, highlighted by Cassidy Skillett’s two-run home run that made it 10-2.

Barnard, a Wichita State commit, scattered five hits and struck out 12 in Beatrice’s victory over Norris. Alexis Wiggins finished with 11 strikeouts for the Titans.

While Barnard didn’t have as good an outing against the Cardinals, she kept Crete scoreless in the fifth inning after giving up two runs in each of the first four innings. Barnard drove in the first two runs of the fifth inning with a double to right field that cut the deficit to 8-5.

Reganne Henning then singled to left field to drive in another run. That’s when Lytle noticed the tide began to turn in Beatrice’s favor.

“The first three innings the girls were really uptight,” Lytle said. “They were playing tight and just weren’t going out there relaxing and doing what they needed to do. I knew eventually something would fall and things would start rolling. Once we started to get a couple of things, it just started to flow.

“You could see the confidence, and everybody started to feel at ease. Once it was tied up, at that point I pretty well knew we were going to win the game.”

Beatrice took a 9-8 lead before its third walk of the inning loaded the bases for Hannah Lytle, who blasted a grand slam to center field to put the Lady Orange ahead 13-8. Three more runs, the last on Crete’s lone error, ended the game.

Kniesche gave up one hit in Wayne’s two games. Sweetland said the South Dakota State commit has been pitching at that high level all season.

“She’s just so good at reading batters’ swings,” Sweetland said. “She’ll shake me off if she doesn’t like it. She makes the ball move. Where they’re at in the box and where they’re at on the plate, she has done it so long she can pretty much control what she wants to do with it.”

Wayne (32-3)..........430 10—8 11 0

Seward (21-14).......000 00—0 0 2

W: Tori Kniesche, 27-2. L: Gillian Mettenbrink, 3-1. 2B: W, Brooklyn Kruse. HR: W, Kniesche, Hope O’Reilly, Kendall Dorey.

Crete (31-4).............222 20— 8 5 1

Beatrice (30-5)..........102 0(13)—16 12 4

W: Addison Barnard, 17-4. L: Alexis Mach, 29-5. 2B: B, Whitney Schwisow, Avery Barnard. 3B: C, Kaitlyn Wendt. HR: C, Elizabeth Eltze, Morgan Maly. B, Hannah Lytle, Olivia Aden, Avery Barnard, Riley Schwisow.

Hastings (28-8)........000 000 0—0 1 4

Wayne (31-3)..........310 000 x—4 4 0

W: Tori Kniesche, 26-2. L: Elle Douglas, 19-5.

Norris (20-9)........000 000 0—0 5 0

Beatrice (30-4).....010 012 x—4 4 1

W: Addison Barnard, 16-4. L: Alexis Wiggins, 12-7. HR: B, Barnard, Carley Leners, Reganne Henning, Tavia Hausman.

Omaha Gross (21-8)......110 000— 2 6 1

Crete (30-4).................330 004—10 12 1

W: Alexis Mach, 29-4. L: Jordan Skradski, 12-4. 2B: OG, Abbie Jo Gaube. C, Jennifer Cardona-Hernandez. HR: OG, Gaube, Ellie Zoucha. C, Cassidy Skillett.

Seward (21-13)...............012 110 2—7 9 0

Omaha Skutt (27-3).........100 000 0—1 3 2

W: Sydney Parra, 18-13, L: Anna Newcomer, 7-1. 2B: S, Claire Geidel. HR: S, Grace Hamling, Hannah Benedict, Haley Marshall.

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