Gering took the first game 6-1 from Crete on Saturday, and the Cardinals were one loss away from having their season come to an abrupt close.
But Crete coach Shawn Carr was not worried.
With its back against the wall, No. 3 Crete responded in a big way, taking the second game against Gering 13-0 in three innings before clinching a third straight trip to state with an 11-0 win in Game 3.
"I told them, 'Hey, I'm way more comfortable right now,'" Carr recalled saying after the Game 1 loss. "I said we've always been way better when we're the underdog."
Crete opened Game 2 with four runs in the top of the first, then Morgan Maly's grand slam highlighted a nine-run third inning.
The Cardinals kept their ears pinned back. They scored five runs in the first inning of the decisive game and five more in the second. Maly hit another homer and finished with three RBIs.
Junior Lexi Mach was strong all day in the circle. She allowed two hits in the second game and three in the third.
B-2 at Beatrice: Beatrice’s strong run of pitching, hitting and defense carried over from subdistricts in a pair of wins against York in Beatrice.
The No. 2 Lady Orange won the first game 11-1 and the second 10-0, each in four innings. Beatrice had a combined 29 hits in the two games.
“The girls, they swung the bat very well today,” Beatrice coach Gary Lytle said. “They played really well. I think we might have had one error today, the first we’ve had in some time, but we still played really good defense."
Olivia Aden, Whitney Schwisow, Carley Leners and Tavia Hausman each homered in the second game, while Addison Barnard and Riley Schwisow combined to shut out the Dukes in the circle.
Aden went 4-for-4 with four RBIs in the first game.
Beatrice will be making its second straight trip to state after reaching the Class B state final last year.
“The girls wanted an opportunity to play at state again and making that is one of their goals for the year,” Lytle said.
York’s season ends at 15-13.
B-7 at Courtland: Molly VanderHamm's RBI sacrifice fly in the sixth inning helped break a tie and send No. 4 Norris to a 3-2 win against No. 7 Northwest in the decisive game.
The Titans trailed 2-0 in the fifth inning of Game 3, but Alexis Wiggins and Taylor McMurray hit back-to-back homers to tie the game.
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Norris won the first game 6-5 on a walk-off homer from Wiggins, who had two homers in the game. Northwest responded with a 4-2 victory in the second game.
Wiggins struck out 17 in the third game.
Norris will be making its first trip to state since 2013.
C-1 at Arlington: Bishop Neumann and Wahoo both had their seasons come to a close Saturday.
Neumann (17-11) lost to Tekamah-Herman 9-2 in an elimination game. Tekamah-Herman (18-13) also eliminated Wahoo 7-5. Wahoo ended the season 15-16.
Neumann lost to eventual district champion Arlington earlier in the day 6-2.
C-2 at Blue Springs: Kylie Allen hit two homers and drove in six runs to lead No. 4 Auburn to a 9-6 win against No. 9 Freeman in the championship game.
Auburn jumped to an early 3-0 lead and took control in the sixth on Allen's three-run homer to left field.
Auburn (21-6) will be making its fourth straight trip to state.
Mikayla Lempka had three RBIs for Freeman (20-10), which defeated Southern/Diller-Odell 16-6 to reach the final.
C-3 at Fairbury: Top-ranked Fairbury (24-4) made an improbable comeback to clinch its second state trip in three years. The Jeffs beat Malcolm 21-15 in a wild game in which the Jeffs trailed 13-0 after two innings.
Fairbury got back in the game with a 10-run fourth inning. The Jeffs had seven hits in the inning.
The Jeffs took a 16-15 lead on Josi Mans' two-run homer in the fifth.
Mans finished with six RBIs, and Ellie Ohlde went 4-for-5 with five RBIs and three runs scored. Hailey Wessel led Malcolm with three hits and five RBIs.
No. 5 Malcolm (20-10) reached the final with a 3-1 win against No. 6 Milford (19-9). Wessel struck out 12 and scattered three hits in the win.
— Clark Grell