WAYNE — When the final out was recorded and another district title was secured, the Wayne High softball players walked off the field as if they’d done it before.
Which they have — yet again.
For the 17th time in the program’s 18-year history, the Wayne High softball team punched its ticket for the Nebraska State Softball Championships after defeating Adams Central 2-0 and 7-2 Saturday afternoon in the B-4 District Championship Series at the Wayne Sports Complex.
However, while most high school softball teams would celebrate with gloves thrown skyward and meet in a dogpile in the middle of the infield, the Blue Devils gathered for the postgame handshake with the Patriots, then walked calmly to the outfield to await comments from coach Rob Sweetland — not exactly the kind of celebration you’d expect from a young team that is going to state with a 25-game winning streak.
“I think our girls sometimes just expect it, and they probably should enjoy it a little more,” Sweetland said with a smile after Saturday’s two-game sweep. “Most teams who make state will start a dogpile and throw their gloves in the air. Maybe we need to practice that.”
About the only thing Sweetland could be critical of was the 11 baserunners Wayne left through the first six innings of the second game.
“It was frustrating offensively because we put a lot of runners on and then weren’t coming up with the hits to drive them in,” he said. “It makes it easier on yourself to come up with hits in those situations, but we got enough to get it done.”
Wayne was outhit 4-3 in the opener but made the most of their opportunities. Tori Kniesche belted the first pitch she saw well over the center field fence in the first inning, and Brooklyn Kruse doubled and scored on a wild pitch in the second.
That’s all Kniesche needed, as she scattered four hits while striking out 13 and walking one to lead Wayne to the first-game win.
In the second game, Sweetland moved Kniesche up to the leadoff spot after she was intentionally walked in each of her ensuing at bats after the first-inning homer.
“We figured we might as well put her on and have Kendall hit right behind her,” Sweetland said of the lineup change. “Kendall (Dorey) has been our best hitter all season, and if she’s coming up with somebody on and hits one out, right away we’re up 2-0. I was curious to see if they’d walk her and they did, so it worked out.”
The move paid off as Kniesche was intentionally walked to start the game and Dorey followed with a two-run homer to center. Hope O’Reilly followed with an RBI double to put Wayne up 3-0 and never looked back.
Wayne added another run in the second on an RBI single by O’Reilly, put up another run in the sixth when Dorey stole home on a pickoff attempt, then scored the final two runs when Virginia Kniesche slapped a two-run single up the middle in the top of the seventh.
Tori Kniesche threw another solid game, striking out 13 while allowing two hits and one walk. Dorey continued swinging a hot bat, going 3 for 4 with two doubles and two RBIs. O’Reilly was 2 for 5 with a double and two RBIs as well.
“Tori was outstanding,” Sweetland said of his record-breaking senior fireballer. “That’s a good-hitting team and we started them inside a lot in the first game, then worked away with the changeup and kept them off-balance.”
The new best-of-3 format that Class B teams competed under for the state tournament presented new challenges, but Wayne was able to play all of its postseason games on its home field, which Sweetland said, worked to its advantage.
“This (postseason) has a different feel to it,” he said. “The neat thing was that we were able to play all our games at home, but we knew going into the season that it was going to be a lot more difficult and it was a long road.”
The Blue Devils will take a 30-3 record into their first-round matchup with Hastings in the Class B division of the Nebraska State Softball Championships that starts Wednesday morning at the Smith Softball Complex in Hastings.
Sweetland said that, with the new district format, any one of the eight teams competing can win the state title.
“We need to get our bunts down and put the ball in play more with runners on base, because the pitching and hitting will get better this week, and we need to score when we have opportunities,” he said. “And when you have a pitcher like Tori, if we go out and play well, we’ll have a chance in this format, because you’re going to have eight really good teams and if you don’t come ready to play, anybody can beat anybody.”
B-4 District Series
Wayne 2-7, Adams Central 0-2
Adams Cent. 000 000 0 — 0 4 1
Wayne 110 000 x — 2 3 0
WP: T. Kniesche. LP: Carpenter. 2B: Kruse. 3B: O’Reilly. HR: T. Kniesche.
Wayne 310 001 2 — 7 9 1
Adams Cent. 000 010 1 — 2 2 0
WP: T. Kniesche. LP: Carpenter. 2B: Fleming, Sweetland, O’Reilly, Dorey 2. HR: Dorey, Trausch.