The state high school softball tournament will continue to be in Hastings.
The Nebraska School Activities Association board of directors voted unanimously to keep the tournament for the next five years at the eight-field Smith Softball Complex, which has hosted the event since 2008. The board came to that decision after hearing proposals from Hastings and three other cities — York, Grand Island and North Platte — at their November meeting in Lincoln on Thursday.
“Hastings has made some things happen that we thought would be good,” NSAA executive director Jay Bellar said. “The fields out there are really good, the community does a great job of supporting the tournament and their facilities set them apart.”
Hastings’ bid included expanding the dugouts by 10 feet on the four fields used for the state tournament as well as raising the backstops 8 feet to protect fans from foul balls.
Those improvements further enhanced Hastings’ advantage over the other communities, specifically the center building in the middle of the four championship fields.
None of the other facilities presented in the bids — the 2-year-old York Ballpark Complex with seven fields, the recently expanded Veterans Athletic Complex in Grand Island (from four fields to 10) and the seven-field Dowhower Softball Complex in North Platte — offered the complete amenities in one structure like the Smith Complex.
Hastings’ three-level building houses concessions, rest rooms and a training room for athletes on the ground floor, a second level that has an umpire room, men’s and women’s locker rooms for them and a hospitality room for workers and media, and a third-floor level with large windows leading to each field for official scorers and media, a space that can handle 48 people.
There’s also balcony seating connected to the building for spectators that also has wheelchair accessibility.
York’s facility has a press box with two changing rooms and a lounge for umpires as well as upper field views for media and scorers, but with smaller window space. The Grand Island and North Platte bids did not include a permanent structure for official scorers and media, offering instead covered makeshift accommodations outdoors. The NSAA would’ve paid York $600 to use the fields for the three-day tournament. The NSAA does not pay a facility rental in Hastings, but the hosts do keep 10 percent of the gate receipts with the other 90 percent going to the NSAA. Hastings also offered a no-loss guarantee to cover NSAA expenses that might exceed income from ticket sales. The 2019 first-team softball Super-Staters
Jordyn Bahl School: Papillion-La Vista | Year: Junior | College: Committed to Oklahoma. Inside the numbers: 27-0 in the circle with a 0.15 earned-run average, 299 strikeouts in 139 innings, three earned runs allowed; hit .581 with 22 homers and 59 RBIs.
A season to remember: When you combine what Bahl did in the circle and at the plate, she had arguably the best season in state history. Equipped with multiple pitches, including a much-improved change-up, Bahl didn't allow an earned run until the 19th game of the season. She didn't allow another until the state final. Offensively, Bahl went on a tear late in the season (she hit .679 over the final 11 games) and tied a Class A single-season record with 22 homers. "I know she was the most-feared pitcher (in the state) and I got to believe she is the most-feared hitter in the state," Papio coach Todd Petersen said.
Tori Kniesche School: Wayne | Year: Senior | College: Committed to South Dakota State Inside the numbers: 30-3 in the circle with a 0.39 ERA and 499 strikeouts (Class B single-season record); hit .483 with 14 homers and 39 RBIs.
A finish to remember: Knieshe's ability to dominate games in the circle with her power and movement is well-known. She set several state records this past season, including a Class B mark for no-hitters with 12. "I just think she read the batters better," Wayne coach Rob Sweetland said. "Where they were in the box, if they were up or back, off or on. She had the ability to maybe put spin on it a little bit earlier, things that most pitchers don't even consider when they're pitching." But how about that finish to her career? Kniesche, leading a young team, hit five homers on the final day of the state tournament, including a three-run shot against Beatrice that lifted the Blue Devils to a second straight state title.
P, Syd Nuismer School: Elkhorn | Year: Senior | College: Committed to Omaha Inside the numbers: 28-5 in the circle with a 2.27 ERA and 213 strikeouts; hit .371 with 24 RBIs.
Taking on a new challenge: Nuismer's pitching and leadership were big reasons behind Elkhorn reaching the state championship final in its first season in Class A. She led the Antlers to a 1-0, nine-inning win against Omaha Marian in the state tournament (striking out 16). Marian had runners on second and third with no outs in the bottom of the ninth. Nuismer proceeded to strike out the Crusaders' Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters to end the game. "She leads by example," Elkhorn coach Allen Schutte said. "She puts a lot of pressure on herself to go out and perform, and I think that makes the team want to do the same. In the dugouts and in the huddles, she wants everyone to go with her, and her leadership and her grit were huge for this team."
C, Brooke Dumont School: Papillion-La Vista | Year: Junior | College: Receiving Division I interest Inside the numbers: Hit .487 with 38 hits, 10 doubles, seven homers and 34 RBIs; drew 28 walks; .997 fielding percentage and only one error.
A defining moment: Dumont's defense behind the plate is even more impressive when you consider she is catching Jordyn Bahl, who is throwing pitches at 67-69 mph. If runners did get on against Bahl, they had little success running on the three-time first-team Super-State catcher. Dumont's most impressive moment of the season perhaps came in the Class A state final against Elkhorn. She had a 15-pitch at-bat before drawing a walk. "I really think it was kind of a microcosm of our season, because there was no way, no matter what, anybody was going to take it away from us, and that at-bat kind of symbolized our whole season," Papio coach Todd Petersen said.
INF, Mia Jarecki School: Papillion-La Vista | Year: Junior | College: Receiving Division I interest Inside the numbers: Hit .533 with 57 hits, 56 runs scored, 26 RBIs, 20 extra-base hits, including nine homers; 17 stolen bases; 1.000 fielding percentage.
Multiple ways to get the job done: Whether it's at the plate or defensively at second base, Jarecki can impact a game in a Swiss Army knife sort of way. The Papio leadoff hitter could drag bunt, and if the defense seeks to take that option away, Jarecki, a two-time first-team Super-Stater, has the ability to hit the ball out. Papio coach Todd Petersen credits Jarecki's power to her work in the weight room. "We've got a lot of good clutch hitters, but if we needed a clutch hit or clutch whatever, she's right at the top of the list of someone that we want to have up at the plate," Petersen said. "She really can do it all." She also didn't commit an error.
INF, Billie Andrews School: Gretna | Year: Senior | College: Committed to Nebraska Inside the numbers: Hit .424 with 18 homers, 54 runs scored, 34 RBIs and 22 stolen bases; finished with 57 career homers despite missing 17 games.
The big bounce back: Andrews was cleared to play just before the start of the season after she tore her ACL two-thirds of the way through her junior season. It didn't take long for Andrews, the Dragons' leadoff hitter, to return to form. The power was there (18 blasts) despite being walked numerous times, and Andrews remained the state's top defensive shortstop. As Gretna coach Bill Heard notes, this was Andrew's first and only full season of good health. "Her power numbers were off the charts," Heard said. "I think I almost forgot how special a player she really is. She can literally do things that other kids just don't have the ability to do."
INF, Jayme Horan School: Millard South | Year: Senior | College: Committed to Creighton (basketball) Inside the numbers: Hit .483 with a .570 on-base percentage, 33 runs scored, 45 RBIs, 12 homers and six doubles; had 12 multi-hit games.
Showing her athletic ability: Horan — a first-team Super-State basketball player, too — is a natural at first base. But Millard South needed a spark at shortstop, and coach Steve Kerkman moved one of the state's top athletes to short. Horan flourished, committing only three errors in 64 chances. Meanwhile, she remained one of the state's top offensive threats. "I think a lot of people would probably trigger on her hitting, but she's such a great leader and such a great teammate," Kerkman said of Horan's greatest asset in 2019. "We had times where we had three or four or five freshmen and sophomores on the field with her, and she's so helpful and willing to do what she can to help others get better and stay positive."
INF, Maggie Vasa School: Papillion-La Vista | Year: Junior | College: Receiving Division I and II interest Inside the numbers: Hit .466 with 41 hits, nine homers, seven doubles, 27 RBIs and 45 runs scored; 11 stolen bases; .976 fielding percentage.
To a new level: Papio had big shoes to fill at shortstop following the graduation of two-time, first-team Super-Stater Madeline Vejvoda, but Vasa stepped in and made an immediate impact. She's athletic and strong and she shows a lot of range defensively. Vasa transitioned to Class A after transferring from Bishop Neumann. "She's an amazing athlete and she played high-level club ball this summer, which I think helped her with the transition," Monarchs coach Todd Petersen said. "Anytime you change schools, change environments, it could be very difficult on anybody, but she seemed to fit right in."
OF, Abbie Squier School: Lincoln Southwest | Year: Senior | College: Committed to Nebraska Inside the numbers: Hit .495 with 18 homers, 13 doubles, 62 runs scored and 51 RBIs; drew 24 walks; hit .466 against state-qualifying teams.
Steady climb: Squier had a breakout junior year, and it carried over into her final season with the Silver Hawks. Squier, who hit second in the lineup, is one of the state's most consistent and most-disciplined hitters, hitting line drives to all parts of the field (and many of them going over the fence). Leadership and defense made Squier (she had six outfield assists from center field) a complete player. "Being in a lot those (big) moments makes you more successful and mentally preparing yourself in practice helps you succeed in big moments helps, too," LSW coach Mark Watt said. "She's not struggling to make contact or hoping to hit the ball hard. She knows those situations, knows what to do and gets the job done a large majority of the time."
OF, Hannah Camenzind School: Omaha Skutt | Year: Sophomore | College: Receiving Division I interest. Inside the numbers: Hit .531 with 52 hits, 14 doubles, 10 homers, 36 RBIs, 50 runs scored; stole 15 bases; also pitched (12-0 with a 3.42 ERA).
Soaring SkyHawk: Camenzind was the ultimate tone-setter for one of the state's top lineups, regardless of class. With twin sister Lauren and Ruby Meylan hitting behind her, teams had little choice but to pitch to Camenzind, and she capitalized. Once on base, Camenzind put a lot of pressure on defenses with her aggressiveness and speed. She also began emerging as one of the state's top pitchers. When not pitching, she covered a lot of ground in center field. "She didn't waver," Skutt coach Keith Engelkamp said. "She just always put a bat on the ball really well and was solid all season long. She's multi-versatile when she's in the outfield, too."
OF, Izzy Eltze School: Crete | Year: Senior | College: Committed to Omaha Inside the numbers: Hit .535 with 54 hits, 13 homers, seven homers, 66 runs scored and 20 stolen bases.
Big-time in big games: Eltze created a lot of headaches for opposing pitchers and defenses. Separating her from most outfielders is her speed. Once on base, Eltze put immense pressure on opponents. But it wasn't just speed. Eltze displayed a lot of power over her final two seasons. More impressive is this stat: Eltze was 21-for-32 (.656) with four homers, four triples, two doubles, 16 RBIs and 20 runs scored against top-10 teams in Class B this past season. "She is so smart, driven, focused and intelligent that in big games she's able to lock in," Crete coach Shawn Carr said. "She's such a perfectionist, I just think when it came to big games she was zoned in on where she thought they were going to attack her."
UTL, Addison Barnard School: Beatrice | Year: Senior College | Committed to Wichita State. Inside the numbers: Hit .667 with 17 homers, 13 doubles, 48 RBIs and 67 runs scored; 23 stolen bases; drew 44 walks; went 17-4 in the circle with a 3.21 ERA.
The total package: Slugger. Clutch pitcher. Speedster. Competitor. That's only the start of what Barnard brought to the Lady Orange. She had the state's top batting average and owned a whopping .774 on-base percentage. Teams would walk Barnard, sometimes with the bases loaded, for damage-control purposes, but once on base, Barnard could hurt teams with her speed. She also set an all-class state record for career homers with 61. "Addie isn't one to shy away from competition, and giving her best," Beatrice coach Gary Lytle said. "Our whole team has been of the mindset that no matter the situation we will continue to compete and find a way to be better than the team in the other dugout. Addie was a good leader and always gave her all until the end."
UTL, Emma Hain School: Lincoln Southwest | Year: Junior | College: Receiving interest. Inside the numbers: Hit .473 with 15 homers, 13 doubles, 51 runs scored and 56 RBIs; committed only six errors at shortstop; hit. 466 against state-qualifying teams.
Leap year: After losing some key seniors last year, Southwest needed some players to fill some key spots in the lineup and Hain was among those to deliver, hitting behind Abbie Squier. Hain's numbers took a big jump from last year when she hit. 385 with six homers. What separates Hain is her defense. "She's got a strong arm, she does all the little things right, she's so efficient with her feet and her hands and her glove," LSW coach Mark Watt said. "She's diving for balls in practice and in games and gets to balls that other people don't get to, and she's got the big cannon arm to be able to throw people out on close plays."
UTL, Alyssa Gappa School: Omaha Northwest | Year: Senior | College: Committed to Creighton. Inside the numbers: Hit a Class A single-season record .712 with nine doubles, seven triples, seven homers and 22 RBIs; drew 28 walks; stole 16 bases.
A smashing career: Behind a combination of strength and plate discipline, Gappa put on a hitting clinic during her final high school season. Among the eye-popping numbers: an .809 on-base percentage and zero strikeouts for the versatile shortstop. Because she was walked so much, Gappa only had 59 at-bats, but she made 42 of them count. "She is a one-of-a-kind player in respect to her consistency," Omaha Northwest coach Erin Piatt said. "Her consistency throughout the years has remained there and has improved from being a baby-face freshman and then continuing to play at a high level throughout her remaining four years." In addition to her hitting prowess, Piatt praised Gappa's leadership skills, showing teammates the value of details.
UTL, Lyndsey Roth School: Lincoln North Star Year: Junior | College: Beginning to receive interest Inside the numbers: Hit .566 with 15 extra-base hits and 34 RBIs; .821 slugging percentage; caught 145 innings.
Finding a home behind home plate: Roth continues to show her versatility as a defensive player. She's a strong outfielder, but she spent most of her junior season behind the plate and emerged as one of the state's top catchers. Roth, hitting third in the lineup, was just as consistent and steady at the plate. "I think her fundamentals at the plate are unmatched," North Star coach Brittany Hansen said. "She does such a great job of tracking the ball, she knows what her strengths are and she is so patient." Roth was at her best when it counted most. She was 10-for-14 with three homers over the Gators' final four games (all postseason contests).
UTL, Tatum Villotta School: Omaha Marian | Year: Junior | College: Committed to South Dakota Inside the numbers: Hit .500 with 49 hits, 40 runs scored, seven doubles and 12 RBIs; 25 stolen bases; committed zero errors at third base.
Corner foundation: Marian coach Chad Perkins says, "I'm biased, but I think she's the best third baseman in the state just the way she played it." The numbers back it up. Villotta, who played center field as a freshman, had a flawless season at the hot corner, and she's strong throwing on the run. Offensively, she was a tough out, striking out only eight times. She's hitting around .500 for her career. "She's a true triple threat," Perkins said. "She can lay down a great drag bunt and I give her the read a lot. Very rarely do I call something for her because she reads the defense so well. She can hard slap very well and swing away for a little bit of power."
Super State Softball Portraits
The 2019 Super-State Softball Team poses for a photo at Elkhorn Training Camp Thursday. (Back row from left) Papillion-La Vista's Mia Jarecki, Omaha Skutt's Hannah Camenzind, Omaha Marian's Tatum Villotta, Wayne's Tori Kniesche, Omaha Northwest's Alyssa Gappa, Crete's Izzy Eltze, Papillion-La Vista's Brooke Dumont, Lincoln North Star's Lyndsey Roth, and Lincoln Southwest's Emma Hain; (front row from left) Papillion-La Vista's Jordan Bahl, Millard South's Jayme Horan, Lincoln Southwest's Abbie Squier, Gretna's Billie Andrews, Elkhorn's Syd Nuismer, Beatrice's Addison Barnard, and Papillion-La Vista's Maggie Vasa.
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