WISNER – It’s a 3 1/2 hour drive from Wayne High School to the Smith Softball Complex in Hastings.
It took the Wayne High softball team just about that long to punch its 11th district title.
The top-seeded Blue Devils let one get away earlier in the day against Wahoo Saturday, but bounced back to win three straight games in the B-3 district tournament, including back-to-back one-run victories over the third-seeded Warriors, to claim the school’s first Class B district championship and punch their ticket to this week’s Nebraska State Softball Championships.
After posting an easy 10-1 win over Columbus Lakeview on Friday, the Blue Devils were up 4-1 against Wahoo in their first meeting of the day, only to see the Warriors explode for seven runs in the sixth inning to take an 8-4 win and send Wayne to the losers’ bracket.
Wayne once again made fast work of Lakeview with a 10-0 elimination win, then beat Wahoo 4-3 and 6-5 in two must-win games to secure the district title and the automatic trip to the state tournament.
It was a long day of softball, but the four-game finish that sends Wayne to state for the 14th time in the program’s 15-year history was well worth it, according to coach Rob Sweetland.
“It was an up-and-down day, but it’s up in the end and that’s all that matters,” he said after the emotional win. “We capitalized on some stuff and gave up some things, but overall I thought it was evenly matched and could have went either way. We got the big hit at the right time and that was just enough.”
Wayne opened the tournament Friday with an easy win over Lakeview, using a seven-run third inning to propel them to the easy win.
The Blue Devils got two in the first on a Kennedy Maly RBI groundout and a Sidney Biggerstaff single. Ashten Gibson opened the third with a long leadoff triple and scored on a Hannah Belt single. A two-run single by Annie Kniesche and RBI’s by Kortney Keller and Jamie Gamble also highlighted the big inning.
Belt through a complete-game four-hitter in the opener, striking out 10. Biggerstaff and Kiara Hochstein each had two hits to highlight a 10-hit effort.
Things started out well for Wayne in the first of three matchups with Wahoo. Maly brought home Jenna Trenhaile with an RBI triple and Biggerstaff sent Maly home with an infield single in the first to get Wayne a quick 2-0 lead. They would use Wahoo errors in the second and sixth to take a 4-1 lead before the wheels fell off.
A leadoff homer by Wahoo jump-started the big inning, and Wayne wasn’t able to bounce back from the blast as the Warriors took advantage of five hits and two hit batters to post the come-from-behind win.
With no room for error, Wayne wasted little time getting back to a rematch with Wahoo, jumping on Lakeview early to advance to the championship game.
Biggerstaff’s three-run home to left got Wayne started in their second battle with the Viqueens, and Maly and Biggerstaff had RBI singles in the second to make it 5-0. Wayne added four more in the third and Abby Ankeny capped the scoring with a leadoff triple, coming home on an error to give Wayne another crack at Wahoo. Gibson and Tori Kniesche combined on the four-inning no-hitter, striking out a total of 11 batters and walking one.
Wayne jumped on Wahoo in the first inning of the first championship game, thanks to an RBI triple by Maly and an RBI groundout by Biggerstaff. Hochstein scored on a fielder’s choice to make it 3-0 in the third, and after Wahoo came back to tie the game with three in the sixth, Ashten Gibson singled, moved to second on a Belt sacrifice, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Hochstein’s infield grounder to force the second game. Gibson pitched 5 1/3 strong innings, allowing four hits and striking out 10 before Belt came on to get the win in relief.
In the second game, Wayne again drew first blood. Biggerstaff scored on a wild pitch in the second and Maly had an RBI triple and scored on an error in the third to give Wayne a 3-2 advantage.
Wahoo came bak with runs in the third and the fourth, then scored two in the fifth to take a 4-3 lead and really put the pressure on the Wayne offense.
After two runners reached base, senior Kortney Keller came through with a two-RBI triple to help Wayne retake the lead, then scored on an error to come home with what proved to be the winning run.
Tori Kniesche pitched four innings before being relieved by Gibson, who was eventually relieved by Belt, who served up the final out by forcing a lazy fly ball to Hochstein in center field. The win sent the girls into a screaming frenzy, as they were able to secure their first Class B district title and 11th district championship overall.
The 27-4 Blue Devils were the No. 7 seed and scheduled to face Hastings in the opening round of the eight-team, double-elimination tournament on Wednesday at 9 a.m.
Class B State Tournament Schedule
All games at Smith Softball Complex, Hastings
Game 1 – No. 1 Elkhorn South (27-2) vs. No. 8 Elkhorn (20-7), 9 a.m., Field 1
Game 2 – No. 4 Gretna (26-4) vs. No. 5 Lincoln Pius (20-8), 9 a.m., Field 4
Game 3 – No. 3 York (29-4) vs. No. 6 North Platte (23-9), 9 a.m., Field 3
Game 4 – No. 2 Hastings (30-4) vs. No. 7 Wayne (27-4), 9 a.m., Field 2
Game 5 – Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 4:30 p.m., Field 2
Game 6 – Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 4:30 p.m., Field 1
Game 7 – Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 9 a.m., Field 1
Game 8 – Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 9 a.m., Field 2
Game 9 – Winner Game 7 vs. Loser Game 6, 11:30 a.m., Field 1
Game 10 – Winner Game 8 vs. Loser Game 5, 11:30 a.m., Field 2
Game 11 – Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 4:30 p.m., Field 3
Game 12 – Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 10, 4:30 p.m., Field 4
Game 13 – Winner Game 12 vs. Loser Game 11, 11:30 a.m., Field 2
Game 14 – Winner Game 11 vs. Winner Game 13, Championship game, Field 2, 2 p.m.
Game 15 – If needed, 30 min. after completion of Game 14, Field 2