HASTINGS — With the veteran Molli Vasa standing on third base, Bishop Neumann coach David Brabec didn’t have to say anything this time.
An adventurous and tense seventh inning put No. 2 Neumann in position for a win. And Vasa, a senior, represented the winning run.
“Right before that (final) play happened, she looked at me and I said, ‘Hey, it’s been a joy coaching you for all these years,’” Brabec recalled. "'You know exactly what I’m going to tell you. This is the first time in four years I’m not telling you what I normally tell you.’ And she nodded her head.”
Moments later, Vasa took off for home on a passed ball, scoring the winning run and giving Neumann (25-8) a 5-4 win against No. 1 Malcolm (27-5).
Neumann, which entered state on a wild-card berth, is in the Class C final for the second time in three years. The Cavaliers will await the winner of Malcolm and Arlington (27-7), who meet at 11:30 a.m. Friday.
Neumann trailed three different times against Malcolm, but had an answer every time, the biggest coming in the seventh.
Malcolm tied the game in the top half on Laura Reiling’s lead-off home run, and Halie Rohe untied it with a solo shot to left later in the inning.
But despite two quick outs in the bottom half of the frame, Neumann kept fighting.
Megan Spicka doubled, Vasa reached on an error and Carlie Benes singled in a run. Then Vasa scored on the passed ball with freshman and sister Maggie up to bat.
“We talked about willing hits to happen, making it happen,” Brabec said. “You sit there and sometimes it goes in one ear and out the other, but it’s a great feeling when you finally hear those girls saying some of those things that you preach all season long.”
The Cavaliers had just six hits against Reiling, who finished with 11 strikeouts. But the Cavs made each of those six hits count.
“We knew, we’re going to chase, we’re going to strike out some,” Brabec said. “It’s part of the game. We can’t get into panic mode and it’s going to be the same approach (Friday). Just see pitches, just see pitches.”
Malcolm co-head coach Travis Meyer said he expects a different Clipper team Friday. He said he wants Malcolm to play mad.
“I got to give Neumann a lot of credit,” he said. “We got them down three times and they kept coming back. They didn’t die. But you know, I’ll take my team all day long. I think you’ll see a different team tomorrow.”
Malcolm will play No. 6 Arlington in an 11:30 a.m. elimination game Friday. The Eagles defeated Auburn 10-4 and rallied to beat Fairbury in walk-off fashion, 2-1, to eliminate the Lady Jeffs.
Fairbury defeated Chadron 10-8 earlier in the day, while Auburn topped Fillmore Central/Exeter-Milligan 15-4.