HASTINGS — A classic pitchers’ duel came down to a pair of back-to-back doubles that never left the infield.
Addison Barnard looped a ball just over the head of third baseman Aliah Schulz, and Whitney Schwisow followed with a bunt into the hole between second and third base that brought Barnard home with the game’s only run as Beatrice edged Wayne 1-0 to advance to Friday’s 2 p.m. championship game in the Class B state softball championships at the Smith Softball Complex.
It was a fantastic pitching matchup between Barnard and Wayne senior Tori Kniesche, as the two combined for 27 strikeouts and just three walks in a game that appeared to be headed for extra innings until Beatrice came through with its back-to-back hits.
Barnard started with a 1-2 pitch that hit off the end of her bat and drifted over the top of Schulz, landing in the corner of the infield. The ball’s placement allowed her to take the extra base and put a runner in scoring position.
Two pitches later, Schwisow bunted and found a gaping hole left behind as Wayne shortstop Brooklyn Kruse went to cover third base. That allowed Schwisow to reach second as Barnard came home with the game’s lone run.
Barnard set the Blue Devils down in order in the top of the seventh, ending Wayne’s 27-game winning streak and putting it in an 11:30 a.m. elimination game Friday against Seward, which came from behind with three runs in the seventh to eliminate top-seeded Omaha Skutt 4-2.
Coach Rob Sweetland said the situation that led to Beatrice’s run was something that was not expected.
“It’s one of those things where we weren’t going to throw to third, but we had a freshman there and it’s one of those situations that I needed to teach them, so that’s on me,” he said. “The thing is, we haven’t been in those situations too much, so it’s a learning experience. It’s just tough to have to learn it at this time of the year.”
Wayne had chances to score that it wasn’t able to cash in. Schulz hit a two-out single and moved to second on a passed ball in the fourth but was left stranded. Kendall Dorey singled, stole second and went to third on a throwing error in the fifth, but she also was left behind as Barnard worked out of both situations.
Wayne’s third and final chance came an inning later when Kayla Fleming singled and moved to second on a Hope O’Reilly sacrifice, but the Blue Devils couldn’t get the run home. Beatrice, which had been limited to three baserunners — one on a hit, one on a walk and the third on an error — broke the scoreless deadlock to move on to Friday’s championship game.
“Both pitchers played great, and we had the opportunities but didn’t come through with a big hit,” Sweetland said. “It’s frustrating, but we’re still here and still alive and we have a chance to see them again and we know we can play with them. It’s just a matter of regrouping and coming back and trying not to take Seward lightly.”
That might be easier said than done. Wayne has played Seward three times in the past 11 days and have won all three on no-hitters by Kniesche, including a perfect game that was Sweetland’s 500th career win last week in subdistricts.
Sweetland said his team would take Seward seriously, especially after it came from behind to beat Omaha Skutt on an adjacent field to Wayne’s matchup with Beatrice.
“They’re coming off a high and we’re coming off a low right now,” he said. “The good thing is we can get a good night’s sleep and regroup and flush this one out of our minds and come back with some positive energy. We’ve had success against (Seward), but they’re a very good team and we have to come up with some big hits tomorrow.”
Wayne 000 000 0 — 0 5
Beatrice 000 001 x — 1 3
WP: Barnard. LP: T. Kniesche. 2B: Barnard, Aden, Schwisow.