HASTINGS – Trailing 6-0 early in the game, Wayne responded with a big six-run third inning to tie the game.
Down 7-6 in the sixth, they came through with three more runs to take the lead.
The third time wasn’t the charm, though, as North Platte used a six-run seventh inning to hold off the Blue Devils 13-9 and eliminate them from the Class B bracket of the Nebraska State Softball Championships Thursday morning at the Smith Softball Complex.
“You can’t give a team that kind of an advantage without earning it,” a disappointed coach Rob Sweetland said after the Blue Devils ended their 27-6 season with an 0-2 effort at the state tournament. “It happened to us twice in this game, and you can’t let that happen to you twice.”
Two errors, a walk and a passed ball led to five unearned runs for the Bulldogs, who had scored a run in the first and added five more in the second, capped by a grand slam homer by Kylie Engelman to stake the Bullodgs to a 6-0 advantage.
Wayne’s bats, which were limited to a single hit in Wednesday’s 9-1 loss to Hastings, came alive in the third inning. Jamie Gamble and Tori Kniesche singled to open the inning, and Kayla Hochstein got a bunt single to load the bases. After Jenna Trenhaile reached on an error to bring home Gamble, Kennedy Maly took an 0-2 pitch well over the wall in left for a grand slam homer to get the Blue Devils within one at 6-5. Sidney Biggerstaff followed with a double and later scored on an Ashten Gibson to tie the game at 6-6.
The game would stay tied until the sixth, when the Bulldogs scored once to take the lead. Wayne would answer again in the bottom of the sixth. With two out and two on, Maly came up again and blasted a three-run shot to left, giving her a career-high seven RBI’s on the day and giving Wayne a 9-7 lead and leaving them three outs of advancing.
Unfortunately, North Platte got to Hannah Belt, who came on in relief of Gibson and starter Tori Kniesche. North Platte parlayed three walks, a single and an error into three runs, and Taylar Coleman followed with a three-run homer to give the Bulldogs the four-run lead and help them move on in the tournament.
Hochstein, Maly, Biggerstaff and Kortney Keller each had two hits to highlight a 12-hit effort for the Blue Devils. Tori Kniesche pitched 2 2/3 innings, allowing six runs on four hits and striking out two before giving way to Gibson, who went 3 1/3 innings and struck out four while allowing one run and four hits. Belt took the loss, allowing six runs on two hits and three walks while striking out two.
Sweetland was proud of the way his team came back, and was disappointed for his five seniors – Gibson, Belt, Keller, Hochstein and Taylor Gamble – that they weren’t able to go farther in a tough Class B field.
“They’re a great group and they have a lot of fun with the game, and your heart goes out to them because they’ve worked so hard all year,” he said. “They complemented each other well and it’s been a fun group for the four years I’ve had them.”