HASTINGS — The tying run was on second. Another runner was on first. The heart of a lineup was up.
It can make for some tense and uncomfortable moments, right?
But Syd Nuismer likes the big stage, and the Class B state tournament at Smith Softball Complex is the setting this week.
The game’s final pitch from the Elkhorn junior resulted in a game-ending fielders’ choice, and it lifted the top-ranked Antlers to a 2-1 victory over No. 3 Omaha Skutt and into Saturday’s 10 a.m. championship final against No. 2 Beatrice.
“I like the big crowd,” Nuismer said. “Some people get shaken up, but it kind of makes me excited thinking that people are excited to see us play. And it’s a state championship we’re fighting for. That means the world to me.”
Nuismer had pitched every inning for the Antlers this week, and she limited a deep Skutt lineup to five hits Friday.
Nuismer’s bat also is coming through. She untied the game with solo home run to center field in the bottom of the sixth inning. She hit a grand slam a day earlier against Hastings.
“She’s kind of taken the team on her shoulders, which is really good of her,” Elkhorn coach Allen Schutte said. “That shows her leadership on this team.”
Nuismer got two quick outs in the top of the seventh, but the next two Skutt batters reached, via an error and a walk. Schutte then gathered the infielders in the circle before the Antlers got the final out.
“I said, ‘Hey, there’s nobody better at this game right now in pitching than you, so just go right after them,’” Schutte said of his message to the pitcher. “She did what she needed to do for our team, and I’m very proud of her.”
Elkhorn turned to small ball to manufacture its first run, which came in the fifth inning. Schutte said the team had been working on more bunting earlier in the week knowing they might need it against Skutt's Elise Warneke.
Beatrice reached the final with a come-from-behind 7-6 win against Omaha Gross, and followed with a 9-6 win against Skutt.
The Lady Orange trailed Gross 6-3 entering the final inning of a game that was delayed for nearly five hours because of rain. Jaci Berke hit a two-run homer, Addison Barnard had game-tying RBI single to the left-center gap and Hannah Lytle ended the game with a sacrifice RBI to center field.
Momentum carried over into the next game, as Beatrice raced to a 6-0 lead against Skutt, which defeated Beatrice 8-5 a day earlier.
The Lady Orange turned to senior Bailey Green in the circle, and Barnard entered in the seventh and got the final three outs.
"We got the bats going there at the end (against Gross) and that helped the girls' confidence," Beatrice coach Gary Lytle said. "Us and Skutt are pretty familiar with each other, too. It's been competitive and jumping out early and getting those four runs early really helped."
The Lady Orange will need to beat Elkhorn twice Saturday. Beatrice and Elkhorn met in the Columbus Invitational earlier this season, with Beatrice winning 2-0.
Beatrice (30-8) is making its first state final appearance since 2011.
"It's going to take a lot of hard work, but we definitely can do it," Barnard said. "This means a lot to us because before the season even started we said we were going to be in that championship game because we had the potential, and here we are."
Skutt's season ends at 28-9.