2023, nfca, kaiti, williams, softball, high school, high, school, fastpitch, tournament, tourney, event, memorial, leadoff, classic, Papillion, LaVista, Nebraska, Gretna

PAPILLION, Neb. — Papillion-LaVista claimed the gold bracket and tournament title over the weekend at the second annual NFCA Kaiti Williams Memorial Leadoff Classic hosted by Papillion-LaVista South and Millard North High Schools at the Papillion Landing Softball Complex.

The (8-3) Monarchs knocked off defending champion Gretna, 7-5, in Saturday’s final. It was the first loss of the season for the (12-1) Dragons, who are the No. 2-ranked team in the most recent NFCA Summer/Fall High School Top 25 Coaches Poll.

Papillion-LaVista was a perfect 5-0 at the event, defeating Colorado’s Legend, 3-1, and Gretna East, 10-0, on Friday, before besting host Papillion-LaVista South, 7-3, Missouri’s Rock Bridge, 10-7, and Gretna on Saturday. The Dragons were 4-0 before falling in the final, defeating silver bracket titlist Silo, 5-3, and Lincoln Northeast, 10-0, on Friday, before edging perennial Missouri power Blue Springs South, 4-3, in the gold semifinals.

Oklahoma’s Silo (16-7) reeled off four straight wins after the loss to Gretna, beating Lincoln Northeast, 13-6, on Friday, and Elkhorn South, 4-3 in eight innings, Millard South, 9-1, and Millard West, 5-1, on the final day. Meanwhile, Lincoln Pius X (8-3) captured the bronze bracket, going 3-2 at the event.

This year's event expanded to 24 teams after a successful reimagining of a tournament that had been held for 16 years before being affiliated with the NFCA. It honors the memory of Williams, who starred at Papillion-LaVista South High and went on to a record-setting career at Division II Wayne State College before dying unexpectedly due to an irregular heartbeat in 2015 at just 22 years old.

Money raised at the tournament benefited the Kaiti Williams Memorial Scholarship, which helps female graduates of Papillion-LaVista South pursue higher education and athletics at the collegiate level.

Teams played two pool-play contests each on the first day to determine where they would compete on day two. The top teams in each bracket were the ones in the mix for the tournament championship, while the second-place teams vyed for silver bracket honors, and third-place finishers met in the bronze bracket.

Other teams in the tournament were Blair, Grand Island, Helias Catholic (Mo.), Liberty (Mo.), Lincoln Southeast, Lincoln Southwest, Millard South, Millard West, Omaha Burke, Omaha Westview, Roncalli (Neb.) and Valor Christian (Colo.).

Celebrating 40 years in 2023, the NFCA (National Fastpitch Coaches Association) is the professional organization for fastpitch softball coaches. Known for its highly-regarded Awards Program, the NFCA also educates and supports softball coaches on a variety of different levels: from NFCA podcasts to a comprehensive drills database, to in-person events and a National Convention.

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