NORFOLK – The Dukes blew up B-4 like a squadron of B-52s and bombed their way to York’s first trip to state in softball.
In three games … three cold, windy, miserable weather games … the Dukes scored 34 runs against three opponents while allowing exactly one.
As things worked out, two next-door neighbors just down Hwy 34 from each other had to drive two hours north to play each other twice.
That neighbor, rival Seward, suffered most at the hands of the Dukes in the district tourney at Ta Ha Zouka Park in Norfolk.
Seward battled through the tourney’s bunny bracket to a 6 p.m. Thursday meeting with York. That one ended in a 14-1 decision. The Lady Jays gamely fought off O’Neill in a noon loser-out game Friday. Their reward?
The ‘opportunity’ to face Coach Danyel Seevers’ No. 1-seeded Dukes for a second time in as many days. Friday’s Dukes. vs. Jays rematch was over on the 10-run rule in four innings, 10-0.
The first York game Thursday was another shortened game, 10-0 over David City/East Butler.
Friday in the title game against the Jays, York gave up nothing in the top of the first.
With two out in the bottom of the first Adrienne Gocke stroked a single which Katlyn Horras followed with a ground rule double that scored Lauren Horras who had come on to run for Gocke, the Duke catcher.
Still with two out, freshman Jordyn Stearns strode to the plate with bat in hand. Stearns crushed the ball over the fence in straightaway center to score Katlyn Horras and herself.
That made it 3-0 through one full inning.
Marti Hitz singled with one away in the bottom of the second and Hannah Riley did likewise to put two aboard for Gocke, who walked to load the bases for Katlyn Horras.
The junior’s towering fly ball fell dead center in the middle of three bollixed up Jays and two runs crossed to make it 5-0.
Two were out with runners at second and third when Stearns came up again. This time she beat out a single with pure speed. Her hustle play preserved the run scored on the play by Taylor Kadavy, 6-0.
Nicole Belfiore, perhaps the most diminutive player on the field, proved power comes in small packages by knocking in two more runs to make it 8-0.
Belfiore was caught at third trying to stretch a double ending the second inning, but the two runs were already in the book.
Hayley Nienhueser was forced out at home, but moments later Veronica Botts stole home to make it 9-zip through 3 ½.
Assistant coach Phil Seevers, seeing the 10-run rule was in reach of the Dukes for a third time in as many district games, exhorted the girls to keep the pressure on.
“We need three outs and one run,” he said as the Dukes took the field.
The three outs came as planned. Next was the one run.
Katlyn Horras stroked a one-out single, then stepped aside to let Lauren Horras do the running chores.
Again Stearns delivered a clutch swing, sacrificing Lauren Horras to second on a ground ball out. Belfiore walked to put runners at first and second for Nienhueser who delivered the walk-off that scored Lauren Horras from second and punched York’s ticket to state.
Kadavy, York’s veteran junior pitcher, allowed one hit in the shutout. She struck out two in the shortened game and walked one.
The Dukes, meanwhile, scuffed up the Jays for 12 hits and nine runs knocked in. Skyler Peterson took the loss with Alyssa Winterfeld on for late relief.
York stranded four runners and the Jays left two aboard. Errors were none for York and one for the Jays.
Danyel Seevers was all smiles throughout the tournament and why not given the Dukes’ dominance in all phases of the game?
“Wow? What a great two days for these girls,” she said. “These girls were focused on the goal and didn't look back. The girls created an atmosphere with unity and energy that didn't let up until the last run was scored.”
The coach added, “I'm so extremely proud of this group. As I mentioned before, this is an accomplishment for all the kids present and past that have helped build the foundation to the softball program. A lot of hard work has been put in the last five years by a lot of people and we want to thank everyone who has had a part of our program.
“This is a group of kids that has done a great job representing our school and the city of York. We’re going to enjoy this as it has been a goal for years, but we will get back to work to prepare for state.”
Fans can track the Nebraska School Activities Association website at www.nsaahome.org for state softball pairings that will likely be posted yet this weekend.
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