HASTINGS, Neb. — Only one of the top four seeds breezed through Wednesday's opening round at the Class B state softball tournament.
Second-seeded Omaha Skutt cruised to a 5-0 victory over North Platte at the Smith Softball Complex. Nebraska recruit Kaylan Jablonski struck out 11 for the 25-4 SkyHawks, who are ranked No. 1 by The World-Herald.
The sailing wasn't as smooth for York and Elkhorn South. The top-seeded Dukes overcame a 4-0 deficit after two innings, scored five runs in the fifth and held on for an 8-7 victory over Beatrice.
After giving up five runs in the top of the first, third-seeded Elkhorn South rebounded for an 11-6 victory over Norris. Nicole Hullinger had two home runs and six RBIs for the 26-5 Storm.
Fifth-seeded Blair, meanwhile, overcame deficits of 2-1 and 4-2 to edge Grand Island Northwest 6-4. Kelsey Lewis was 2 for 4, including a home run in the top of the seventh.
Skutt and Elkhorn South will meet for the fifth time this season in one of Thursday's 9 a.m. winners bracket games. The SkyHawks are 4-0 against No. 2 Elkhorn South, but three of those games have gone to extra innings.
Elkhorn South coach Terry Graver said his team has to find a way to score off Jablonski.
“We've pitched well and played good defense,” he said, “but we need to put more pressure on them.”
York and Blair will square off in the other winners bracket game. The Dukes defeated Blair 4-0 on Aug. 24.
“We played them our fourth game of the season,” Blair coach Jon Small said. “We started the season 2-3, and Blair just doesn't do that. We've won 21 of our last 24. We're a different team, and I'm sure they are, too.”
North Platte and Beatrice were the first teams eliminated. Norris defeated the Bulldogs 5-0 and Grand Island Northwest topped the Lady Orange 13-10. Norris and Northwest advance to elimination games at 11:30 a.m. Thursday.
On Wednesday, four of the SkyHawks' five runs came with two outs. The big hit in a three-run first was a two-RBI single by sophomore left fielder Caley Barker, who also had a double in the fifth.
“I thought we put the bat on the ball well,” Skutt coach Keith Engelkamp said. “We had a lot of clutch hits.”
In Elkhorn South's win, the Storm rallied from their early deficit with two runs in the first, four in the third and five in the fifth.
“It's just a big plus for us playing the schedule that we play,” Graver said. “We have been down in games before and battled back. There was no panic at all.”
York also avoided panic after falling behind Beatrice and pitcher Skylar Huls after two innings.
“We started way too slow,” York coach Danyel Seevers said. “But we knew it was just a matter of time before we started to figure her out and get some hits.”
In Blair's win, Small said, Shelby Welchert's steady presence in the circle helped the Bears rally.
“Shelby is a stud,” Small said. “She makes big pitches when she need to.”