STATE SOFTBALL — Blue Devils one win away from the title

HASTINGS — Allison Claussen said she had just missed on a fastball on the outside of the plate, fouling off the pitch to make it a 1-2 count.

When she saw the same pitch on the next play, she did not miss.

The senior launched a high-arcing, two-run homer to right center in the bottom of the fifth, breaking a scoreless tie and providing the spark for Wayne’s 4-0 win over Arlington to secure a spot in the Class C championship on Saturday at the Nebraska State Softball Championships.

For the second time in three days, rain delayed the start of action for more than 5 1/2 hours and forced a rare Saturday session for the championship.

That was just fine with the Blue Devils, who rode the pitching of Tori Kniesche to its 34th consecutive win this season and put the one win away from becoming the second team in state history to finish the season undefeated, matching the 2004 Wayne High Blue Devils.

While the Eagles had a hard time getting anything going against Wayne’s hurler, the Blue Devils struggled against Arlington pitcher Sarah Theiler, who only allowed five hits and two walks while striking out six.

Abby Ankeny reached on an error in the second and Kayla Fleming hit a leadoff single in the fourth for Wayne’s only baserunners until the fifth, when Ankeny drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a Kendall Dorey sacrifice.

That set the table for Claussen’s icebreaking heroics as her fourth home run of the season cleared the fence in right center field.

"It was an outside pitch and she had pitched it to me earlier in the count,” the senior third baseman said. “I knew if it would come the second time I’d hit it. Just wanted to try to get a base hit and it felt really good. Was trying to think base hit and get runners on base and let the team do the work.”

An inning later, Wayne got some insurance. Annie Kniesche singled and Tori Kniesche walked and was replaced by Aliah Schulz as a pinch runner. Two outs later, Dorey smoked a 2-1 pitch down the line in left, scoring Kniesche and Schulz to double Wayne’s advantage.

Tori Kniesche struck out the side in the top of the seventh, finishing off a two-hit shutout with her 17th strikeout of the game and 47th in the tournament.

The win improves Wayne’s record to 34-0, and they’ll go for the state title on Saturday at 10 a.m. against either Arlington or Wahoo Neumann, who survived elimination with a 9-2 win over Centennial.

The Wayne Herald

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