HASTINGS — Morgan Maly was aiming long. She's not afraid to tell you that.

On the first pitch she saw in a fifth-inning at-bat Thursday, the Crete sophomore slugger took a big hack and missed.

Maly didn't miss on the next pitch. She sent it high into the sky and it cleared the left-field fence for grand slam, propelling No. 8 Crete to a 7-4 win against No. 6 Gretna and into the Class B state softball tournament championship final at Bill Smith Softball Complex.

"I was swinging for the fences (on first pitch)," said Maly, who entered state with a .528 batting average and 10 homers. "The other (second pitch) was in the same spot. Just tried to hit it as hard as I could."

Said Crete coach Shawn Carr, "That's a big-time player just making big-time plays. Mo will do that."

Swinging for the fences is exactly what the Cardinals are doing in their first state appearance. Well, maybe not swinging for home runs on every pitch. But Crete is making the most of this opportunity.

A big crowd from Crete, including a lively student section, helped celebrate the win. And then it was off to Applebee's for some more celebrating.

"We're going to let them have their moment and then we'll talk X's and O's tomorrow with them," Carr said. "They'll probably go jump on the beds for a while, play some loud music."

The celebration was just as loud and energetic two fields over, where No. 7 Seward defeated No. 3 York 6-5 to advance to the 11:30 a.m. Friday elimination game against Gretna.

Grace Hamling's RBI double broke a 5-5 tie in the bottom of the sixth inning, and Kate Mullally pitched a 1-2-3 seventh. The Bluejays are playing on the final day of state for the first time since 2009.

For York and Seward, it was their sixth meeting of the season. York won the first four, but Seward took the next two, both coming in the state tournament.

"We were joking before we don't need each other's lineups," Seward coach Rich Eber said. "I'll just go ahead and write York's lineup down and they'll write ours and we'll know who's going to go. That's what it turned into this year and it was a lot fun competing against them."

The six meetings also created several strong duels between York's Karlee Seevers and Mullally, two pitchers who have stepped up in several big moments.

What turned it around for Seward?

"The girls kept playing," Eber said. "They never quit. Every game we play it was always close with (York). They're so good and we feel like we're on the same level and we think we showed it. We just kept competing. That's all we talk about. Do the little things and compete."

York coach Danyel Seevers said seeing a team that many times can create a lot of challenges.

"We try to throw some different stuff this time and I felt like we were successful with that, instead of going with the scouting report and what we've done in the past," she said.

Seward and York had to work their way through the elimination bracket Thursday. Seward beat Wayne 8-0. York got a gem from Karlee Seevers — a one-hit shutout — in a 3-0 win against No. 2 Hastings, and got an offensive spark in a 10-1 win against McCook.

"I'm unbelievably proud of the group," Seevers said. "This particular group holds a special place in my heart. I've been coaching them since they've been 8."

Wayne knocked off No. 1 Elkhorn South 4-3 in 10 innings early in the day leaving only Nos. 6, 7 and 8 left in the tournament.

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

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