Softball offenses don't typically start the season like this.
Teams aren't supposed to combine for 23 runs on 22 hits in the first game of the season, or 30 runs on 33 hits in the nightcap of a season-opening doubleheader.
But don't try telling that to Norfolk High or defending Class A champion Lincoln Southwest, because that's just what happened Thursday night.
In game one, Lincoln Southwest teed off on a 3-1 ballgame by breaking things open with a seven-run fourth inning — all with two outs — and Norfolk never caught up in a 14-9 defeat.
That paled in comparison to game two, when Southwest rallied from an early Norfolk lead on its way to a 17-13 triumph at Ta-Ha-Zouka Park.
“We scored 22 runs in two games,” Norfolk coach Derek Siedschlag said. “This is one of the better teams in the state right here, defending state champions. They hit it well, and they're well-coached. If you score 22 runs against them, you're going to have a lot of chances to win a lot of games.”
“You never expect to score like this,” Southwest coach Mark Watt said. “We've had games like this in the past, but it's not what you're looking for. Our defense was not up to par, and sometimes our pitching wasn't, either.”
The nightcap in particular was a marathon affair.
Norfolk led 3-0 after the first, only to see Southwest respond with a four-run rally with two outs in the third, including a three-run homer. After the Panthers tied it, the Silver Hawks obliterated the tie with a seven-run fourth on their way to a 16-5 lead, and all Southwest needed was three outs in the bottom of the sixth inning to end the game early.
The Panthers clawed back, scoring seven runs and forcing the Silver Hawks to change pitchers twice.
A hit batter and back-to-back singles prompted Southwest to remove reliever Bailey Selvage, who had thrown 4-1/3 innings at that point. Taylor Fritz allowed a bases-loaded walk, and an error plated another Norfolk run, and Watt switched back to Selvage, who allowed another single before Paeton Coler and No. 9 batter Bailey Bernstrauch had two-out, two-RBI hits. At that point, Norfolk had turned that 16-5 deficit into a 16-12 ballgame. Watt replaced Selvage again, this time with Kelsey Kobza, who started the game and lasted just more than an inning. Kobza stopped the Norfolk rally with a flyout to end the inning.
“I'm super proud of how they fight back,” Siedschlag said. “We have great senior leadership. Every time we come back in here (the dugout), our seniors are leading the show, telling them, 'one base hit at a time,' and they just never give up. That's great.”
Unfortunately for Norfolk, that would be all the closer it would get.
Southwest got a double and triple in the seventh to add another run, Norfolk responded with a Brandy Unger solo homer, but the Panthers couldn't dent the deficit any further.
“They've definitely improved,” Watt said about Norfolk. “They're swinging the bats extremely well. They battled and battled and battled and kept putting the bats on the ball. I'm impressed by that team.”
Bernstrauch had a huge twinbill, following up a 2 for 4 opening game with reaching base all four times in the nightcap (hit by pitches twice, reached on error, two-run double), along with scoring two runs.
Ellie Schwede had three hits while Coler, Unger, Sydney Rader, Jade Koch and Makenna Waldow all had a pair each.
The Silver Hawks scored all but one of its runs in the third, fifth or sixth innings. Leadoff batter Josi Solano walked three times and had four RBI after she reached on an error and singled. Emma Hain had three hits while Abbie Squier, Skylar Pieper, Ashley Smetter and Taylor Fritz all had two each.
TO BEGIN the doubleheader, the Panthers never caught up to the Silver Hawks.
Squier got things started as the second batter of the game for Southwest with a solo homer, and another scored via a Norfolk error, before the Panthers got one back in a unique fashion.
Makenna Waldow held up at third base after Natalia Linn hit into center field, but Taylor Schmidt – who was on first base to begin the play – was racing full-steam toward third base. The Silver Hawks threw to second to try to get Schmidt out, but on the throw, Waldow raced home. That allowed Schmidt to reach third safely, and when the defense tried throwing home in an attempt to get Waldow, Linn reached second for a RBI double.
Southwest got some breathing room with a Solano leadoff homer in the third before it exploded for seven runs on three hits, two Norfolk errors, two hit batters, and a pair of walks. Norfolk responded with five runs on five hits, including a two-run double by Coler and a two-run single by Schmidt.
But Norfolk never got closer than 12-9 after three straight batters recorded RBIs in the fifth, including a Coler RBI double and a RBI double by Bernstrauch.
Norfolk outhit Southwest 12-10, but the Panthers committed four errors to two by the Silver Hawks. Sydney Rader led Norfolk by going 3 for 4 at the plate with two runs scored and a stolen base. Coler had three RBIs and two doubles in going 2 for 4, and Bernstrauch was also 2 for 3 with two RBIs and a double.
“If we hit the ball like that, clean up a few things defensively, we'll be fine,” Siedschlag said.
Lincoln SW 201 720 2 — 14 10 2
Norfolk 100 530 0 — 9 12 4
WP: Kelsey Kobza. LP: Sydney Rader. 2B: (LSW) Emma Hain, Shelby Gunter; (NOR) Paeton Coler 2, Bailey Bernstrauch. HR: (LSW) Josi Solano, Abbie Squier.
Lincoln SW 004 075 1 — 17 17 3
Norfolk 300 117 1 — 13 16 4
WP: Bailey Selvage. LP: Brandy Unger. SV: Kelsey Kobza. 2B: (LSW) Abbie Squier, Emma Hain, Skylar Pieper, Ashley Smetter; (NOR) Bailey Bernstrauch. 3B: (LSW) Taylor Fritz. HR: (LSW) Pieper; (NOR) Unger.