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Super-State softball: Honorary captain Wallace hit her marks in the circle and at the plate

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Courtney Wallace has served up a bundle of "wow" moments during her high school softball career.

One of the most recent was a laser shot that left its mark on a firetruck.

The Papillion-La Vista senior blasted a low line-drive home run that quickly zipped over the center field fence and smacked a parked fire engine that was sitting about 30 feet behind the field. According to Papio coach Todd Petersen, the ball nearly hit the father of teammate Jordyn Bahl, who was sitting atop the truck with some co-workers.

"I'm telling you, if that truck wasn't there, I think it would have hit above that garage," Petersen said, pointing to a house on the other side of the street.

When Wallace was little, she wanted to try gymnastics. But softball immediately become her calling. Several years later, she dominated the Nebraska high school scene, throwing strikeouts, piling up stolen bases and hits, and one home run shot off a fire engine.

Wallace sure knows how to hit her marks. Considered one of the most athletic players to play on the diamond, Wallace, who committed to Nebraska as a freshman, is the 2017 Journal Star Super-State honorary captain.

In addition to big numbers, Wallace has eye-popping speed, and when she hits a ball square. …

"It's a thing of beauty," her coach says.

"When I watched her, the thing I liked was she has a very calm, confident demeanor about her, and I think the rest of the team plays off of that," Lincoln East coach Lance Kingery said. "You knew you were playing someone special when you played her."

Petersen said Wallace took a big step forward as a junior when she emerged as one of the state's top pitchers and hitters. She flourished even more as a senior, going 18-1 with a 0.28 earned-run average in the circle, while hitting .504 with 10 doubles, nine homers and 35 RBIs.

The numbers are flashy. They look good on paper. But Wallace's focus was on helping her Monarch team win a Class A state crown after runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2016.

In the state final against Lincoln Southwest, Wallace opened the game with a leadoff homer. She was in the circle when the Monarchs recorded the final out to seal the school's 14th state title.

"It's a goal every year (to win state), but it meant a lot especially senior year because in the past it's heartbreaking not being able to finish it and getting second place," said Wallace, a rare two-year captain in the Monarch program. "It's still a good accomplishment, but you expect to finish on top. So it was super-exciting to finish our senior year. It's like the cherry on top of the ice cream."

Wallace began playing softball when she was about 6. She and her father, John, would watch and break down YouTube videos of some of the world's biggest softball stars, such as Jennie Finch and Monica Abbott.

"He pretty much taught me how to play," Wallace said of her father.

Petersen recalls taking notice of Wallace when she was in the sixth grade. She attended summer camps and showed signs of her potential well before high school.

"In the camp stuff you do in the summer, you can have them practice with high school (players) and they would do that," Petersen said. "She probably could have started for us in seventh grade. She was that good; she was so athletic."

It was clear well before high school that Wallace wanted to be a Monarch. She and her father would watch Papio practices from outside the fence, and the family moved to Papillion from Omaha so Wallace could play in the program.

"Both my parents, they're my No. 1 fans," Wallace said. "It was super-exciting for me to commit (to Nebraska) as a freshman. It felt like all of our hard work paid off."

Wallace's game and maturity continued to trend upward in high school. In fact, it was her leadership skills that impressed Petersen the most this past season. Wallace, along with the other seniors, was asked to help lead a very young team that included several freshman starters. Among them was Jordyn Bahl, who shared the circle and third-base duties with Wallace.

Even Petersen would joke with Wallace, calling her "Coach Courtney."

"I’ve had to teach them (the freshmen), and they’ve also had to teach me," Wallace said. "I’ve never played with that many young girls, so it was a good experience to be able to play with them, to teach me how to be able to teach in different ways, because not everyone learns the same. It was a lot of fun."

She can also play anywhere in the field — outfield, second base, third base.

As for what she likes more — pitching or hitting — Wallace at first calls it a tough question, but, "if I had to choose, I'd rather have the ball in my hand."

Wallace likes the feeling of being in control on the field.

"You have the ball all of the time," Wallace said. "You and the catcher are the battery. You determine what happens. Walk a person and that could lose a game, or you could strike out a person and that could win a game. I like pressure, so I like being in charge."

Wallace did that by serving up a heavy dose of rise balls and drop balls. She also had the change-up in her pocket.

"We came into the season (thinking) we'd throw the change-up more, but she dominated so much with her rise ball that we just didn't throw it quite as often as we thought we would have to," said Petersen, who added Wallace hasn't come close to reaching her potential as a pitcher.

Wallace's 0.28 ERA was the lowest in the state since 2009, when Southwest's Becca Changstrom recorded a 0.19 ERA. Wallace's mark is the lowest in the state since the pitcher's rubber was moved back to 43 feet in 2010.

She faced 385 batters this season, and allowed only 47 hits and four — yes, four! — earned runs. She struck out 162.

Wallace's favorite stat may be "one," as in one state gold medal.

"That's something I've always dreamed of, is winning state, like dogpiling, and it actually happened," said Wallace, who has at the bottom of that celebration in Hastings.

"I couldn't breathe. But it was so worth it."

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.


Sports editor

Clark Grell is sports editor.

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