All things being considered, Kelcie Bormann would prefer to pitch clean innings.

But the presence of threats, like the ones that Northeast continued to bring during the finals of Saturday’s Preston Invitational, seemed to bring out the best in Preston’s ace junior softball pitcher.

“I don’t like having pressure, but I always seem to do better with pressure on,” Bormann said. “It’s a close game every time we play them.”

That comes as no surprise, after the teams split a doubleheader earlier in the week, with Preston winning in 11 innings in the first game. Saturday’s championship game also was no different, as Preston — behind Bormann’s ability to get strikeouts late in innings, when they were most needed — held off the Rebels 3-2.

“Northeast has a great defense; if we hit the ball right at them, they will make plays,” Bormann said of Northeast (3-7). “But we’ve been hitting great this year.”

Preston (11-1) always seemed to have just enough, whether it was enough offense, enough pitching, or enough defense to get the job done.

“Northeast’s a great team, great defensively,” Preston coach Sarah Manning said. “I’d just say (about her team) that we are doing really well right now. There’s no easy outs. The girls are putting the ball into play, hitting it hard. We’ve got a couple of senior leaders stepping up, taking chances. And Kelcie and Megan (Zeimet) make a very good team (as pitcher and catcher). They work together very well.”

Preston scored twice to get on the board first, with two runs in the third inning. Bormann started with a double off the right-center-field wall. After Nicole Trenkamp reached on a fielder’s choice bunt, Zeimet lashed a double of her own to score Bormann. Trenkamp then scored on a sacrifice fly by Lizzie Meier for the Lady Trojans’ second run.

“We worked on it during the winter and every day during practice,” said Zeimet, who reached base in all three of her plate appearances, with a first-inning single as well as the RBI double.

Northeast had advanced baserunners into scoring position in each of the first three innings but couldn’t break through against Bormann until the fourth, when it was able to use its team speed to best advantage. With two outs in that inning, Demi Diedrich laid down a perfect bunt for an infield single. She then stole second and scored on fellow speedster Kelsey Lorenzen’s base hit.

“The girls are dialed in (on Bormann) right now,” Northeast coach Travis Eversmeyer said. “We’ve seen her in 24 innings over the last three days, so the girls aren’t afraid.”

The Rebels then tied the game in the fifth, when Carlie Dever reached on an error, advanced to second on a wild pitch, moved to third by beating a throw and scored on Taylor Kaczinski’s groundout.

But Preston would rally in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead for good. Bormann doubled again, this time to straightaway center field, advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt by Trenkamp and scoring on a base hit by Korissa Daniels.

Northeast put four runners in scoring position in the sixth and seventh innings, but Bormann was able to record two strikeouts in each of those innings to shut down the threats.

East Central takes 3rd

In the third-place game of the tournament, East Central (5-5) defeated Andrew 8-2, in five innings. Emily Rittmer, Tessa Daniels and Sydney Gray each drove in two runs. Rittmer had three hits, including a double, in the time-limit-shortened game.

“Our defense needs to improve, and we need to keep that first batter off the bases,” East Central coach Traci Lerch said. “That’s what is hurting us right now. We’re hitting very well; we’ve hit the ball well all week. As soon as we clean up our offense a little bit, we’ll be good to go.”

In the semifinals, Preston defeated Andrew, 14-1, in four innings, while Northeast defeated East Central, 6-2.

PRESTON INVITATIONAL

CHAMPIONSHIP

Preston 3, Northeast 2

Northeast    000    110    0    —    2    5    1

Preston    002    010    x    —    3    6    4

Whitney Rorah (6 ip, 6 h, 3 r, 3 er, 1 bb, 1 so) and Sarah Schoon; Kelcie Bormann (7 ip, 5 h, 2 r, 1 er, 1 bb, 11 so) and Megan Zeimet. WP — Bormann. LP — Rorah. Multiple hits — Northeast (Carlie Dever 2), Preston (Bormann 2, Zeimet 2). 2B — Preston (Bormann 2, Zeimet). RBIs — Northeast (Taylor Kaczinski, Kelsey Lorenzen), Preston (Zeimet, Korissa Daniels, Lizzie Meier).

THIRD PLACE

East Central 8, Andrew 2 (5 inn.)

Andrew    110    00    —    2    3    4

E. Central    140    30    —    8    9    0

Courtney Hickson (5 ip, 9 h, 8 r, 5 er, 7 bb, 5 so) and Emily Ernst; Tessa Daniels (5 ip, 3 h, 2 r, 2 er, 4 bb, 4 so) and Emily Rittmer. WP — Daniels. LP — Hickson. Multiple hits — Andrew (Amanda Brundage 2), East Central (Daniels 2, Rittmer 3). 2B — East Central (Rittmer). RBIs — East Central (Daniels 2, Rittmer 2, Sydney Gray 2, Sabrina Lippens).