A year after winning Class B, Elkhorn returns to this week’s state softball tournament as the No. 2 seed in Class A.
The Antlers won the weather-delayed District A-2 title on their home diamond Saturday. After beating rival Elkhorn South 12-1 in the final game for retiring Storm coach Terry Graver, they edged Omaha Westside 4-3 in the championship game.
“Our girls were excited for the opportunity playing in a Class A district,’’ Elkhorn coach Al Schutte said. “They looked forward this morning to playing Elkhorn South and whoever came out of the other bracket.
“Westside was ready to play every inning. (Winning pitcher) Syd Nuismer was able to make the difference of winning the innings for us.”
Elkhorn moved to Class A when the NSAA changed the state’s largest class from a fixed number of schools to an enrollment cutoff. Next year, when the new Elkhorn North opens, the Antlers will return to Class B for a while.
The Antlers came into districts as the No. 2 team in the NSAA point standings that seed districts and then the state tournament. Schutte said the team wanted to keep that position, and that meant winning the district tournament.
The rest of the Class A field is filled with familiar teams. No. 1 Papillion-La Vista continued its streak of 27 straight state tournament appearances with a 9-0 win over Bellevue East in the District A-1 final at La Vista City Park. Papio (32-0) entered the 2018 state tournament unbeaten but lost the title game to Lincoln Southwest.
Other district champions were Omaha Marian, Gretna, Millard South, Lincoln North Star and Lincoln Southwest.
Millard West is projected to be Class A’s one wild-card team in the tournament.
North Star and Millard South needed extra games to earn their return trips. North Star lost its first chance to win District A-6 at University Place in Lincoln, losing 9-7 to Millard West. The Gators rallied for a 10-9 win in the title game after the Wildcats tied the game in the top of the seventh inning.
Millard South lost its first game of the day in District A-5 to Heartland Conference champion Kearney 10-8 after the Bearcats scored five runs in the top of the seventh inning. After defeating Bellevue West 11-0 in an elimination game, the Patriots beat Kearney twice — 4-1 and 13-5 — to again qualify for state.
Southwest won the A-7 tournament, which was moved from Lincoln to Papillion-La Vista South because of field availability, by beating North Platte 15-3.
Two of the best-of-three district finals went to a third game to determine a champion.
In B-7 at Cortland, host Norris edged Grand Island Northwest 3-2 in the decisive third game. Northwest won the second game 4-2 after losing 6-5.
In B-6 at Waverly, Seward was the only road team in the eight district finals to advance to state. After losing the opener to the host Vikings, Seward rallied for a pair of one-run victories that gave the Bluejays their ninth trip to state and first since 2017.
The losses were particularly tough for Waverly. It narrowly missed a spot in the 2018 Class B tournament and has been to state once, in 2004.
Omaha Skutt, Beatrice and Crete — the top three teams in the Class B ratings — won their two games by run-ruling opponents. Skutt routed McCook 12-2 and 10-2 in B-1, Beatrice pounded York 11-1 and 10-0 in B-2, and Crete blanked Gering 13-0 and 11-0 in the B-3 final.
Wayne defeated Adams Central 2-0 and 7-2 in B-4. Wayne was last year’s Class C champion, but like Elkhorn, its girls-only enrollment bumped it up a class this season. Hastings survived a scare from Blair in the B-5 opener, edging the Bears 4-3, before a 12-4 rout got the Tigers to state for the fifth straight season.
Omaha Gross, which ended a 10-year absence from state last year, will return after defeating Northeast Nebraska 7-4 and 6-3 to qualify for the ninth time.
Only Cozad had to play an extra game for one of the six Class C district titles. The Haymakers scored four runs in the top of the seventh for a 14-12 win over Kearney Catholic in C-6.
Top-ranked Fairbury, No. 2 Hastings St. Cecilia, No. 3 West Point Guardian Angels, No. 6 Arlington and No. 9 Auburn won their district titles with just one victory needed in the championship round.
St. Cecilia qualified for the first time with an 8-3 victory over Twin River. Fairbury is back after a one-year absence, rallying from 13 runs down for a 21-15 win over Malcolm. The Jeffs seek their first state softball title after finishing as Class C runners-up in 2003.
Kearney Catholic and Malcolm are projected to be the two wild-card teams and would draw their district final opponents for first-round games in Hastings.