The Pratt High School softball team advanced to the State tournament on Monday, defeating Nickerson and Hoisington in regional games played at Larned.

The Pratt High School softball team advanced to the State tournament on Monday, defeating Nickerson and Hoisington in regional games played at Larned.

Not many people anticipated much of a game when the 17-1 #1 seeded Pratt High School softball team took on winless and #4 seeded Nickerson in the opening round.

Lady Green did win as expected, but only 9-0 in regulation. And except for one inning, the game would have been closer than that.

The Greenbacks could only plate two runs in the first three innings. In Pratt's first AB, Brooke Theis drove in Madalynn Wilson who had reached on a bunt single. In the third, courtesy runner Natalie Bare scampered home on a wild pitch, running for Paige Huber who reached on the HBP.

Panther hurler Sophie Mader was teasing the Greenbacks across the top of the zone, and getting away with it, until Pratt struck for a 5-spot in the fourth. Luz Acosta got things going by being selective and taking the BB. Allisan McGowan laid down the sac bunt. Nickerson tried for the force out at second, but Acosta got a good jump and everyone was safe. Reese McDonald loaded the bases with a ball up the middle that the Panthers couldn't turn into an out.

Then Brianna Cruz got the big hit for PHS, an 2 RBI knock. Wilson then dropped a double into left center for ribbies, later scoring herself to give Pratt the 7-0 advantage after four.

That was probably going to be enough runs, as PHS pitcher Paige Huber was pitching well. Early on, the Panthers seemed to be behind her heater. Later in the game, they began pulling the trigger a little sooner and got a few base hits, but Huber racked up 16 Ks and the D was solid behind her so the lead was never in jeopardy.

Pratt couldn't get the offense cranked back up to run-rule Nickerson, who hung in there until PHS finally prevailed 9-0 in regulation.

"Our pitch selection wasn't good at times," PHS head coach Mike Forshee observed. "It was frustrating. But it was vintage Paige. She was right around the plate the entire game."

A few hours after reaching the regional finals with a 9-0 shutout of Nickerson in the semifinals, the Frogs printed out their ticket for Emporia with a 4-0 defeat of Hoisington.

In the regular season finale, Pratt had defeated the Cardinals in a twin bill- routing them in the opener but surviving a nailbiter in the nightcap. The regional final more resembled game two as Pratt was in control, but never dominated.

It was important for PHS to jump into the lead as early as possible to keep any tightness from creeping in. Singles by Brianna Cruz, Paige Huber and Brooke Theis did the job, putting Pratt on the board 1-0 after one. Now the pressure was on Hoisington.

Then Madalynn Wilson had a big two-run single in the second frame, plating Allisan McGowan who had singled and Cruz who had walked.

In the fourth, Theis hit a ball up the middle that got through the center fielder and led to the final Greenback tally.

Huber tossed another gem in the circle for PHS: 11 Ks, 2 hits and 1 walk. As the Cardinals began to put bat on ball a little better as the game went on, the Greenback defense was there. “My defense has been my rock,” Huber said of her teammates. 2B Allisan McGowan had numerous assists/ putouts in the game, and C Brooke Theis gunned down a would-be base stealer to turn around an inning.

“I’m very proud of this group,” said PHS head coach Mike Forshee. “The girls seemed to feel it today.”

“If there’s a better battery out there than (P) Paige (Huber) and (C ) Brooke (Theis), I haven’t seen it,” Forshee added.

The State tournament will be held May 25-26 in Emporia at Trusler Sports Complex. Pratt is likely to be the #1 seed, as they will carry a shiny 19-1 record with them into battle. The Tribune will provide details as they become available.