CRETE — Softball games have it all sometimes.
Crete, trying to find any offensive momentum, had one hit and no runs through five innings against Beatrice on Thursday evening.
Then Leah Jurgens led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a home run, and a rush of hits and runs followed. In a matter of minutes, a scoreless game snapped into an 8-0 victory for the Class B No. 9 Cardinals.
Eleven Crete batters made it to the plate in the sixth, producing eight hits.
Jurgens started it with a blast that buzzed past the top of the left-field fence, but the Cardinals say their momentum swing began in the top of the sixth. On defense.
Beatrice got its leadoff hitter on base, but the next batter popped out to shallow right field and Cardinal second baseman Kaitlyn Wendt threw a dart to first to pick off the runner to complete a double play.
“That really set the tone for that inning,” Jurgens said. “It all carried over.”
Added pitcher Lexi Mach, who followed by catching a come-backer for the third out in the sixth, “I came into the huddle and I said that’s a big momentum shift, and we were just ready to go from there.”
Mach hit a two-run homer to extend Crete’s lead to 3-0. Mackenzie Steuer, Marli Stones and Ashlyn Adam followed with RBI hits, and Wendt ended the game via mercy rule with an RBI double.
“Defensively, we talked about just staying in it all the time, being focused, making the plays and the offense will come, and I definitely think that jump-started our momentum there,” Crete coach KiLee Griffin said of the Cardinals’ defensive play in the sixth.
The Crete offense backed a strong outing from Mach in the circle. The senior pitcher limited Beatrice to three hits and struck out six. Beatrice senior Rylee Krzycki-Pangborn matched Mach for five innings, allowing only one hit before running into trouble in the sixth.
Crete (11-6) and Beatrice (11-8) have each enjoyed strong stretches of success recently. The Cardinals won a state title in 2017 and Beatrice was state runner-up in 2018 and 2019. Both teams had to replace several key players this year and entered Thursday looking for a momentum-boosting victory.
Beatrice was 12th in wild-card points and Crete 16th, so there are no guarantees when it comes to district final berths.
Prep Extra Credit, 9/24: A look at some of the top performances from around the state
“I love playing them, I love how both teams are so competitive,” Jurgens said. “We knew that it was important to beat them. Since this is the last third of our season, we need to make sure we keep winning these games so we have a chance at state.”
Around the bases
* Norris senior Alexis Wiggins stepped up big-time Thursday night. The Creighton recruit struck out 14 and allowed only two hits as Class B No. 3 Norris beat No. 4 Bennington 3-0.
Other Sunland scores
Fairbury 15, Diller-Odell 0
Freeman 10, Falls City 2
Norris 3, Bennington 0
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