HASTINGS — Kearney Catholic had its chances against Cozad on Wednesday afternoon.
After the fourth-seeded Haymakers regained the lead with a four-run third, the fifth-seeded Stars loaded the bases in the fourth and sixth innings. They failed to score in either inning, however, as they dropped their first-ever state tournament softball game 6-4 at Hastings’ Smith Softball Complex.
The first-round loss in the Class C state tournament pushes the Stars into the losers’ bracket of the double elimination tournament. The play Malcolm, who lost to top-seeded Fairbury 11-4, at 9 a.m. today at the Smith Softball Complex.
"We battled, and that’s what we always do," KCHS coach Russ Hiemstra said. "I think we might have had some jitters with it being the first time ever here. That’s something we had to get through. I have a lot of confidence in us coming back (today) and making a run."
The Haymakers (24-7) jumped on Stars pitcher Baylie Luedke in the first inning. Luedke surrendered a leadoff walk, which came back to cost her. Tayler Chytka, the Haymakers No. 2 hitter, laid down a sacrifice bunt with speed Jercey Irish on first base.
The Stars (23-8) recorded the out at first base, but Irish didn’t stop at second. Instead, she sprinted to third, which resulted in a throwing error by first baseman Lauren Marker. Irish scored on the miscue.
Payton Schirmer smacked a home run over the left-center field fence to even the score in the top of the third. The Stars added another run with the bases loaded and two outs. Bralen Biddlecome reached first base on a dropped third strike, scoring Krista Lee from third.
The Haymakers quickly overcame the one-run deficit. Four of the first five batters reached in the bottom of the third, as the Haymakers posted four runs to secure a 5-2 lead.
Haley Cargill crushed a two-run home run to left field to cap the four-run rally off Luedke.
"I didn’t get a chance to talk with our catcher, and I don’t know if she was hitting her spots as well as she usually does," Hiemstra said. "Some of that still could’ve been first-game jitters. She’s our No. 1. We will come back with her (today), and I think getting all the jitters out of her will be good for her."
The Stars loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth, but No. 2 hitter Olivia Nore struck out. Biddlecome, the Stars’ cleanup hitter, also had a chance with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. But she hit a deep fly ball to left field to end the inning.
"Some girls who have usually been pretty clutch for us struggled," Hiemstra said. "But (today), they will come back. I have no doubt in my mind. They are good players, and I am confident in them."
Christina Arram tried to ignite the Stars’ offense in the seventh, hitting a solo home run to cut the Haymakers lead to two runs.
Cozad right-handed pitcher Reagan Armagost pitched a complete game, allowing four runs (three earned) on nine hits and three walks. She also struck out 11 hitters.
"She’s tough," Hiemstra said. "She doesn’t look like she throws all that hard, but she spots the ball really well. I thought we did OK. We had a few long balls and hit a few mistakes. But she doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, so you really have to find that right pitch."
HASTINGS — Fairbury hit four home runs in a 10-0 victory over Cozad to secure a spot in the Class C semifinals.
The loss shifts Cozad into the losers bracket where they’ll play an elimination game against the winner of Hastings St. Cecilia and Auburn on Thursday at 2 p.m. Hastings St. Cecilia and Auburn play Thursday at 9 a.m.
Gretna 12, Millard South 7
Omaha Marian 12, Lincoln North Star 6
Papillion-La Vista 10, Millard West 0
Papillion-La Vista 10, Gretna 0
Elkhorn 13, Lincoln Southwest 5
Elkhorn 1, Omaha Marian 0
Beatrice 4, Norris 0
Beatrice 16, Crete 8
Crete 10, Omaha Gross 2
Seward 7, Omaha Skutt 1
West Point GACC 15, Auburn 7
West Point GACC 10, Arlington 0
Cozad 6, Kearney Catholic 4
Fairbury 11, Malcolm 4
Fairbury 10, Cozad 0
Wayne 4, Hastings 0
Wayne 8, Seward 0
Arlington 9, Hastings 7