HASTINGS – Many of the same players for both the Gresham Blackbirds and the West Point 16 Bluejays who were on the field Sunday for the Class C state softball championship were also in uniform last October for the Centennial Broncos and the Guardian Angels Central Catholic Bluejays – those two squads played each other at the 2018 Class state softball tournament in mid-October.
On Sunday, the Blackbirds won the Class C state championship with a hard-fought 3-2 win over West Point at the Bill Smith Softball Complex in Hastings to cap a great summer season.
Earlier in the week on Friday, Gresham defeated the West Point Heat 8-0 in five innings and followed that win with a 9-0 shutout of the Nebraska City Pioneers on Saturday in six innings.
On Sunday, the Blackbirds defeated the Creighton Thunder 9-1 in five innings, and in the finals of the winners’ bracket, the Blackbirds were a 9-2 winner over the Sandhills Sharks.
After breezing through its first four games, outscoring opponents 35-3, Gresham needed a two-run fifth to take the 3-2 lead and hold on for the win.
Gresham opened a 1-0 lead in the third inning, but watched that lead disappear as West Point pushed across two runs in the fifth to take a 2-1 advantage.
In the fifth, the Blackbirds got the lead back on a home run.
“Daylee Dey hit a solo home run in the two-run fifth and Shelby Ziegler got hot with a 3-for-4 performance,” Gresham head coach Joe Dey said. “Kailey Ziegler went the distance and hung in there after the Bluejays had the tying run at second base. First baseman Brooklyn Gierhan caught a pop fly foul ball off the bat of Kate Gnad to end the game.”
Gresham outhit the West Point 9-5, and along with Shelby Ziegler’s 3-for-4 outing, Dey went 2-for-4 with an RBI while Ziegler drove in two runs.
“The defense, for the most part, was again iron tough,” Dey said. “This was a great experience for the whole team. We really have many girls who played so well over the past three days. The only blemish was a slight ankle injury that kept Asia Nisly out of the championship game, but the bench players and substitutes did a great job.
“The pitching was outstanding and the defense and hitting was solid.”
Gresham 9, Nebraska City 0
Dey held the Pioneers to just four hits and the Gresham offense put the game away with a five-run fifth along the way to its second shutout of the tournament.
Both Gierhan and Chaylee Tonniges led the nine-hit Gresham attack as they both had two hits. Tonniges drove in two runs and Aurora Junge, who had one hit in two plate appearances, also drove in two runs.
Dey struck out six and walked just one batter.
Gresham 9, Creighton 1
The Blackbirds scored two runs in the top of the first and never trailed.
Creighton became the first team in the tournament to score on the Gresham defense, but after cutting the lead to 2-1 after one inning, Gresham scored two in the second, one run in each the third and the fourth, and sealed the win with a three-run fifth.
Kailey Ziegler picked up the win as she tossed five complete innings while allowing just four hits. She had one strikeout and issued one walk.
Shelby Ziegler was 2-for-4 at the plate with three runs batted in and a triple. Junge drove in two runs while Dey was 1-for-2 and scored three times on a pair of walks.
Gresham 9, Sandhills 2
The Blackbirds jumped to a 4-0 lead at the end of 3 ½ innings.
Sandhills cut the lead to 4-2 after four, but the Blackbirds’ offense exploded for five in the fifth to advance to the championship game.
Dey went 3-for-4 at the plate with a pair of doubles and two runs scored. Shelby Ziegler was 2-for-4 with a run batted in.
Dey started in the circle and went four-innings plus, allowing three hits and two runs while Kailey Ziegler finished the game and did not allow a batter to reach base.
Both Junge and Neujahr had RBI hits in the fifth when the Blackbirds broke the game open.