Petersen Celebrates Career Win No. 500 as Papillion-La Vista Claims Tournament Title


The Papillion-La Vista Monarchs (8-3) outlasted the No. 1 Gretna Dragons (12-1) 7-5 to capture the NFCA Kaiti Williams Memorial Classic championship on Saturday at Papillion Landing. It was the first tournament title for the Monarchs in three years. It was also Gretna’s first loss of the year.

Head coach Todd Petersen captured career win No. 500 on Friday and celebrated his birthday with a trophy.

“The biggest thing throughout the whole week is that we were really consistent,” Petersen said following the tournament. “That’s something that we’ve been trying to talk about and knowing that they don’t have to do it all themselves.”

Petersen said his offense was better this weekend than it has been all year. It all started with Kloey Hamblen who finished the weekend 8-for-16 with eight runs batted in and pitched a four-inning shutout against Gretna East on Friday.

Gretna decided not throw ace Alexis Jensen against the Monarchs which had Petersen scratching his head, but he felt like his team took full advantage of that opportunity.

“You have to play all the phases of the game to win a tournament like that with 24 teams and all these out-of-state teams,” Petersen said. “You have to be pretty good at everything, to be honest.”

The Monarchs grabbed a five-run lead in the first inning and with the game being played under a time limit instead of seven innings, it was too late for the Dragons to mount a comeback.

The two teams are scheduled to meet again on Sept. 21 at Gretna and Sept. 23 at La Vista City Park.

A Tournament’s Transformation

When Papillion-La Vista South softball coach Tom Horton transformed the program’s host tournament from the Titan Invite to the NFCA Kaiti Williams Memorial Leadoff Classic last year, he didn’t realize how much bigger the field would be.

Horton took it one step at a time. The Titan Invite had been around for 20 years and then the program teamed up with Millard North and combined their tournaments to co-host 16 teams in 2022. Labor Day Weekend 2023 had 24 teams from four states.

With the addition of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, 75% of the participating teams have to be members and it is one of three high school tournaments nationwide to be affiliated with the NFCA.

A change in NSAA legislation encouraged Horton to chase out-of-state opponents. Before, if Nebraska teams played a school that wasn’t in a bordering state then that game didn’t count for points. Now, the NSAA looks into the details of the school like how big it is and the record to determine how many wildcard points the game is worth.

“This last offseason is when I went after all the out of state teams. We were able to get seven from Oklahoma, Missouri and Colorado,” Horton said on the phone. “I contacted state associations in all the states that play fall and looked up who had won state last year, runner-up and who had won state in the last three years. We sent out invitations to all the perennial powerhouses in those states.”

The result was a field that included Rock Ridge (Mo.), Valor Christian (Co.), Blue Springs South (Mo.), Helias Catholic (Mo.), Silo (Ok.), Liberty (Mo.) and Legend (Co.).

Next season, Horton is expecting to grow the tournament field to 36 teams and is adding a school from Georgia to have every fall state represented.

“We would like for the good competition teams to keep coming back year in and year out,” said Horton. “Nebraska softball represented really well throughout the tournament. Out of the top eight going into the championship bracket, only three were from out of state. I really enjoyed watching these other teams play; they came up and represented their states really well. It was just great competition across the board.”

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