The Eastern Midlands Conference has just six softball teams.
Five of those six, however, entered the conference tournament with Class B ratings within the Omaha World-Herald's top 10. No. 8 Blair went 1-1 against those top 10s and 2-1 overall Saturday, earning third at its home complex.
“I'm just really proud of us coming together and getting third at EMC,” senior Carmen Warrick said. “These are a lot of really good teams and we really hung in there as one of the best.”
Coach Jennifer Fangmeier's team won its third-place matchup against No. 7 Elkhorn, 7-5.
“It was a team win for sure,” BHS catcher Tessa Villotta said. “Everyone contributed.”
That was especially true during the second inning. The Bears trailed 2-0, but notched six RBIs by five batters to take a commanding four-run advantage.
Warrick pushed across Blair's first run with a bases-loaded single.
“I knew she was going to hit me outside (with a pitch) and I was ready for it,” the first baseman said. “I'm just glad we all strung hits together that inning. Basically all of us scored.”
Leah Chance and Nessa McMillen followed Warrick's lead with RBI singles before Villotta tallied a two-run knock. Hannah Koch's sacrificed then produced the 6-2 lead BHS would hold until Kalli Ulven's fifth-inning sac fly increased the lead to five.
Ulven also earned the pitching win, striking out seven Elkhorn batters including the last one she faced. The Antlers scored three sixth-inning runs, and had two more in scoring position, before the freshman ended the game, which had passed its time limit.
“Kalli really pulled through,” Villotta said. “She was pitching all day so, obviously, she's tired. But she pitched really good that game.”
Blair huddled in the outfield to end their day at the Blair Youth Sports Complex. The Bears finished third, while Norris earned first and Bennington second.
Bears go 1-1 in pool play
To reach the third-place game, Blair went 1-1 during pool play at the Youth Sports Complex.
It opened with a matchup against the No. 5 team in Class B, Bennington, falling 8-0 in five innings. The game was scoreless through three frames before the Badgers seized control with a six-run third. During it, they ripped two two-run homers with Blair left fielder Jerzie Janning chasing one up and over the outfield fence unsuccessfully.
Bennington added a third two-run homer during the fifth to end the game by run-rule. Ulven had six strikeouts in defeat, while Chance, Hallie Lewis and Villotta hit singles.
Then, against Elkhorn North, BHS bounced back with a 10-0 victory. McMillen launched a homer during the four-inning victory, while the pitching staff held the Wolves without a hit.
Ayden Dick added three RBIs in the win.
Blair is 10-5 through the first 15 games of the fall season.