HASTINGS — The rise ball is Syd Nuismer’s favorite pitch.
It was evident why during Saturday’s Class B state tournament championship game.
Just like her rise, Nuismer elevated her game over the course of four days at Smith Softball Complex, and the Elkhorn junior saved her best performance for last, striking out 14 in leading the top-ranked Antlers to a 3-0 win against No. 2 Beatrice.
Behind her signature pitch, Nuismer retired 12 of the game’s final 13 batters in leading the Antlers to their sixth state championship and first since 2014.
“She took this team on her shoulders,” Elkhorn coach Allen Schutte said. “I did see a little bit different stuff (at state). She was very focused from pitch one to the end of the game.”
Elkhorn (30-6) got some clutch hits, too. Freshman Ella Dalton homered in the third inning and freshman Paige Roessner hit an RBI single in the fourth to extend the lead to three.
The way Nuismer pitched in four state games, it was more than enough. She pitched all 28 innings in Hastings, and allowed only five runs — four of those coming in the opener against North Platte.
The junior right-hander saw arguably Class B’s top two offenses in Omaha Skutt on Friday and Beatrice (30-9) on Saturday, shutting down both. Nuismer held Beatrice, which set a state record this season for home runs, to four hits.
“Mentally, I knew I had to be strongest person on the team to pick people up, and I think that really made me stronger as a person,” Nuismer said.
Elkhorn tweaked its offensive approach against Skutt, turning to small ball. The Antlers carried that mentality into the Beatrice game.
“We had to earn it, that’s for sure,” Schutte said. “(Beatrice’s Addison Barnard is) a good pitcher. She doesn’t do anything easy for us. She shut us out the first time (earlier in season), we got three runs this time (and) we were lucky enough to get those.
“I’ll tell you what, our hitters came up to hit today.”
Elkhorn manufactured the game's first run in the first inning, scoring on an error, and Schutte called the early 1-0 lead huge.
"I think that made the difference in pitch-calling," he said. "It made a difference in our girls just going to the plate and being able to swing at pitches and making some contact with the ball, so it was a huge, huge boost for our team."
Said Nuismer of the early lead, "It was really nice and made me feel very composed on the mound knowing that my team had my back on offense and defense."
Beatrice coach Gary Lytle said that was the best he had seen Nuismer pitch.
“She got into a good rhythm and we were watching the outside ball coming in for the first strike and we were actually biting on that rise ball and got in a bad rhythm for us,” he said.
Saturday’s final was a matchup of two teams that needed wild-card berths to get to state, and both teams rose to the occasion in Hastings.
Elkhorn lost two straight against Omaha Skutt in district play.
“I think that was the motivating factor in this whole week,” Schutte said. “This is the big stage for everybody, and you never know what’s going to happen down here.”