The Nebraska Fury didn't get to celebrate long after finishing ninth at the ASA national championships in Montgomery, Ala., last weekend.
After going 1-1 in pool play and 6-2 in bracket play in the 154-team field, the 16-and-under squad packed up quickly to head home, a 16½-hour drive.
They had to get back for the start of their high school softball seasons Monday.
“This is a group of girls that loves the sport,” said coach Mike Heard, who also had to get back for practice. He coaches at Ralston with his brother, Bill.
“They can handle it. They do a good job of it.”
The Fury, who started playing in April, finished 68-17. They won a couple of tournaments, including the Midwest Regional tournament qualifier in Kansas City, Mo.
Catcher-first baseman Megan May and outfielder Megan Korgie each hit four home runs as the Fury hit 13 overall in bracket play.
Korgie hit .398 and May .379 for the tournament. Zierra Flodman hit .425 with one homer. Third baseman Jennifer Daro also had two home runs.
Pitcher Jaylee Hinrichs, who has committed to Creighton, won six games with an ERA of 2.10.
Heard said his team had unbelievable chemistry and never gave up when it was behind. He said the Fury played at its peak at the national tournament.
“We've been in the top 10 to 20 range before, but never a top 10,” Heard said. “That's been the goal, to get to the top 10.”
Most of the players on the team have committed to a college, including:
Nicole Warren, Papillion-La-Vista South, Creighton.
Jennifer Daro, Omaha Skutt, Creighton.
Jaylee Hinrichs, Lincoln Southeast, Creighton.
Lizzie Noble, Bennington, UNO.
Megan May, Lincoln Southeast, UNO.
Megan Korgie, Ralston, Missouri Western.
Sydney Robertson, Millard South, Bellevue.
Others on the roster who haven't committed:
Cara Williams, Millard West; Katie Heard, Millard West; Zierra Flodman, Lincoln Southeast; Leah Kalkwarf, Millard South; Corrin Ziepke, Elkhorn South.
Young Quakes finish year 58-20-2
The Quakes Black finished 1-1 in pool play and 2-2 in bracket play at the same ASA tournament in Alabama.
Coach Mike Butera fielded a young squad, with one junior, five sophomores and seven freshmen. Everyone is still undecided on their college choice.
The Quakes finished 58-20-2, playing most of their games in the 18-and-under division.
Besides qualifying for nationals, a high point in their season was going 6-1 at the Independence Day tournament in Boulder, Colo., which included more than 40 of the top teams in the country. Butera estimated that 350 to 400 coaches were on hand for the invitation-only tournament.
Butera said pitchers Julia Andersen, from Papillion-LaVista, and Linzy Heim, from Bellevue West, were keys to the Quakes' success at nationals.
Butera, an assistant at Papillion-La Vista, was thrilled with how well his team performed.
“We actually competed and we competed at a high level on a national stage,” he said.
It's hard, he said, to find success against teams from the south and west, but he felt the Quakes held their own.
“They start in September and play through August,” he said. “We're fortunate if we're able to get outside by April.''
Nebraska Gold finish 2-3 at nationals in Oklahoma City
The Nebraska Gold went 2-3 at the ASA girls 18-and-under gold national championships in Oklahoma City, Okla.
“We didn't get as far as we wanted to,” coach Dick Jablonski said. “We played great teams, but didn't bring home the prize we wanted to.''
The Gold were knocked out by the Michigan Finesse Gold.
The Nebraska Gold, who hit .352 as a team, were 71-15. Starting in late March, they won several tournaments, including their regional qualifier in Bloomington, Ind.
Center fielder Gina Metzler of Papillion-La Vista hit .446 and right fielder Alyvia Simmons from Millard West hit .451. Catcher Madison Unzicker from Millard South hit 16 home runs.
Pitcher Kaylan Jablonski, a junior at Omaha Skutt, had 40 wins to go with her 2.08 ERA. All four girls have committed to Nebraska.
“This is a very young team. Everyone returns for next year, other than Alicia Armstrong and Madison Frain,” Dick Jablonski said. “They gained a lot of experience this year at the gold nationals. Most of those teams are much older, so this team will have a great shot next year going deep in the tournament.
“There is a lot of talent on this team and in this area.”
Others who have committed:
Christy Warnock, Millard North, South Dakota.
Cat Woolman, Lincoln Pius, Arkansas.
Michelle DIxon, Lincoln Southwest, Wichita State.
Alicia Armstrong, Beatrice, Nebraska.
Madison Frain, Creston, Iowa, South Dakota.
Faith Cain, Millard West, Nebraska.
Lauren Wegner, Omaha Central, Nebraska.
Kristin Lange, Elkhorn, Missouri Western.
Lotte Sjulin, Concordia, Nebraska.
Erin Lockhart, Lincoln Southeast, undecided.
Judge, jury ... and coach
Douglas County court judge Marci Keim is crazy about softball.
So crazy that she spends nearly every weekend and a lot of vacation time coaching an under-14 team.
“I physically can't play anymore,” Keim said. “It's fun for me, fun spending times with the girls and the competitive nature of it.
“I guess you could say I'm living vicariously through them.”
Keim, 38, went to Omaha Gross before softball was a varsity sport. But she still played at Benedictine College in Kansas.
She continued to play during her years as a prosecutor and was asked to help out with an Echoes Energy team a few years ago. She graduated from an assistant last year to head coach this summer.
The Energy recently finished third at a USSSA national tournament in Rockford, Ill., one of four tournaments in the country. The Rockford tournament included teams from the central and upper Midwest. The Energy, with a core group of players that has been together for at least three years, went 8-2, with just 10 girls playing 10 games in five days.
“They were spent,” Keim said.
The Energy finished the season 52-24-4 in Keim's debut as coach. They started last fall with indoor practices, with games beginning in early March.
“They played their hearts out, and I am very proud of them,” Keim said.
— Marjie Ducey