GRAND ISLAND — The Kearney High softball team rediscovered its winning touch at the perfect time and brought home the Heartland Athletic Conference championship.
Starting with a walk-off grand slam home run by Marisa Chamberlin, the Bearcats won the championship Friday afternoon at Grand Island by beating Lincoln East 9-7, Lincoln North Star 7-5 and Lincoln Southwest 6-4.
Kearney (18-12) led its first-round game with Lincoln East from the start, but the Spartans (19-16) plated five runs in the top of the sixth to take a 7-5 lead.
The Bearcats answered with four straight hits in the bottom of the sixth, which was the last inning under the time limit.
Sophie Junker led off with a single and Abby Heins, who hit a solo home run in the first, singled to put two on. Karleigh Scott beat out a bunt to load the bases for Chamberlin, whose fly ball cleared the center field fence.
Haley Becker, who had two hits of her own, was the winning pitcher, scattering 11 hits and striking out three.
The momentum carried into the next game as Kearney scored six runs in the first inning against Lincoln North Star (24-8), including a grand slam by Ella Kugler.
Kelsey Choplin was the winning pitcher, working 3 1/3 innings. Becker got the last two outs for the save as the time limit cut the game short.
In the final, the Bearcats again took control in the first inning, scoring four runs. An error, three walks and RBI singles by Choplin and Bean produced the four runs. Kari Struebing’s solo home run in the third to plate a fifth run.
Lincoln Southwest (24-8) fought back, getting within a run entering the seventh inning, but Scott hit a solo home run and Choplin pitched the seventh inning, working around a lead-off single and two walks to preserve the win.
Haley Becker was the winning pitcher, going five innings in relief of Chamberlin.