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NSAA State Softball First-Round Games, 10.10.18

Papillion-La Vista's Jordyn Bahl winds up against Lincoln North Star during a state softball tournament first-round game in October at the Smith Softball Complex in Hastings.

CLASS A

^ RS: Returning starters

Team (Last season);RS^

1. Papillion-La Vista (34-2);6

2. Millard South (25-8);7

3. Lincoln Southwest (39-5);6

4. Omaha Marian (23-10);7

5. Elkhorn (30-6)*;7

6. Omaha Burke (22-11);6

7. Millard West (26-8);3

8. Lincoln North Star (24-14);6

9. Gretna (22-8);4

10. Elkhorn South (16-12)*;6

Contenders: Bellevue West, Grand Island, Millard North, Norfolk, Papillion-LV South.

* Class B in 2018

The case for No. 1: Papillion-La Vista, the 2018 state runner-up, may have one of its most experienced and talented teams in school history, and that's saying something for a program that has 14 state crowns occupying space in the trophy case. Junior Jordyn Bahl is not only the top pitcher in the state, the right-hander also is considered one of the nation's top recruits for 2021. Brooke Dumont is a two-time first-team Super-State catcher and Mia Jarecki is one of the state's top infielders. The Monarchs added Bishop Neumann transfer Maggie Vasa, who was the Class C all-state honorary captain as a freshman. She is expected to take over at shortstop. Aside from talent, Papio also is extremely motivated after falling short of a 15th state title last year.

After No. 1: Millard South gets the slight edge over defending state champion Lincoln Southwest for the No. 2 spot. Of the two teams, the Patriots return an experienced starting pitcher (Paige Gregalunas). Omaha Marian brings back seven starters, including a very talented left side of the infield — SS Abby Russell and 3B Tatum Villotta. Elkhorn moves up from Class B, but the Antlers will be in the mix because they have one of the state's top arms in first-team Super-Stater Sydney Nuismer, an Omaha recruit.

CLASS B

Team (Last season);RS^

1. Omaha Skutt (29-8);8

2. Beatrice (30-9);9

3. Hastings (27-14);9

4. Crete (26-11);9

5. Wayne (35-0)*;3

6. Seward (21-11);7

7. Norris (21-12);7

8. Bennington (20-10);8

9. Northwest (25-9);8

10. Omaha Gross (19-12);7

Contenders: Adams Central, Blair, Waverly, York.

* Class C in 2018

The case for No. 1: Unlike in Class A, Class B is more of a toss-up at the top entering the new season. The top four teams each return most of their respective lineups, including starting pitching. Skutt gets the edge based on its pitching depth. The top part of the SkyHawk batting lineup — which includes Division I prospects Lauren and Hannah Camenzind and Ruby Meylan ... all sophomores — is very dangerous, too.

After No. 1: Beatrice, Hastings and Crete are super-athletic teams with plenty of pop. The Lady Orange have Addison Barnard, a Super-State athlete with a powerful bat and a powerful arm. A young Hastings team grew up real fast last year, and the Tigers still have Ellie McCoy, a Missouri State recruit. Crete still has several players who contributed to the 2017 state title run, while Wayne, behind pitcher Tori Kniesche, could be a factor at season's end. Keep an eye on Bennington, which won 20 games last year and returns eight starters.

CLASS C

Team (Last season);RS^

1. Arlington (25-9);8

2. Fairbury (22-10)*;9

3. Hastings SC (22-10);7

4. Auburn (26-5);7

5. Guardian Angels CC (24-9);8

6. Centennial (27-11);6

7. Milford (19-14);8

8. Bishop Neumann (27-10);2

9. Malcolm (18-12);5

10. Cozad (18-17);7

Contenders: Boone Central/NG, Raymond Central, Southern Valley/Alma, Twin River, Wahoo.

* Class B in 2018

The case for No. 1: At least five teams can make a case for the top spot. That should provide a glimpse of how wide open Class C is this year, especially with Wayne in Class B now. Arlington gets the nod. The Eagles have placed third at state in each of the past two seasons, and they return all-state pitcher Sarah Theiler, one of the state's top two-way players. Junior catcher Kylee Bruning (.395 BA last year) also returns.

After No. 1: In a tight Class C picture, if Arlington is 1A, Fairbury is 1B. The Jeffs are back in Class C after one season in Class B and they return the majority of their roster. Hastings St. Cecilia surprised some people last year, and the Hawkettes return all-stater Natalie Kissinger (1.96 ERA). Auburn continues to get stronger and stronger, and the Bulldogs have pitcher/slugger Kylie Allen back, while GACC returns eight starters. Centennial and Milford have some early questions in the circle, but there's enough talent at both places to make some noise late in the season.

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

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