A disappointing end to the spring varsity season will serve as motivation for several teams when the Class A American Legion state tournament begins Saturday.
The 16-team tourney will be played at two sites. The eight-team American Division will be contested at Kearney while the eight-team National Division will be played at Omaha Burke, with the winners playing Aug. 4 for the state title.
Three teams headed to Kearney — the PrimeTime Patriots (Millard South), the Roof Tech Wildcats (Millard West) and Associated Fire Protection (Papillion-La Vista South) — are among the squads that came up short in the spring. Millard South and Millard West both went 1-2 and Papio South failed to qualify for the tourney after winning state the previous two years.
“I think we’ve all tried to put that behind us,” PrimeTime coach Greg Geary said. “What matters now is how things play out in this tournament.”
Geary’s squad enters with a 30-18 record after winning the A-1 Area tournament Tuesday. The Patriots were 10-0 during the summer in league play — games against teams from the Omaha area.
“We told our kids to gear up for those games,” Geary said. “That always helps with the seeding for the Area tournament, so that was a factor for us this year.”
PrimeTime has received strong pitching from Jeff Chesnut, Austin Dubsky, Corey Andersen and Nick Houston. Danny Regan, an All-Nebraska selection in the spring, has helped lead the offense.
“We’ve got some guys on our team who can really move,” Geary said. “We try to get them on base any way we can and then get our offense rolling.”
As the A-1 champion, the Patriots were scheduled to play in the Burke half of the tournament. But since the Burke squad that finished as the A-1 runner-up is a tourney host, it’ll be PrimeTime that heads out to Kearney.
“That’s just the way it worked out,” Geary said. “But I know they’ll have a really good tourney atmosphere out there, and we’re looking forward to it.”
The coach of the Legion team from Burke (sponsored by T. Hurt Construction) said his squad is excited about getting the opportunity to host.
“I think it’s been a long time, if ever, that an Omaha Public Schools team has hosted it,” coach Scott Hodges said. “We want to show off our facility and make sure we do a good job.”
The team has done a good job on the field, posting a 34-14 mark this summer. Hodges said there are only two seniors on the team, which also bodes well for the future.
“We’ve got a lot of versatility, and you need that in the summer,” he said. “We’ve beaten some good teams to get here and now we want to see how we’ll do at state.”
Hurt Construction’s top pitcher has been Ryan Cate, who has won five games and has an ERA of 2.75. Austin Aspegren has posted three wins in the past two weeks while Adam Caniglia and Kirby LeBlanc lead a balanced hitting attack.
Hodges said two squads — PI Midwest (Omaha Creighton Prep, the spring champion) and Lincoln Pinnacle Bank (Lincoln Southwest) — loom as the teams to beat in the National Division.
“They’re the cream of the crop,” he said. “But I know there are a lot of other good teams, so it should be a great tournament.”
Four games will be played Saturday starting at 10 a.m. The championship games in both divisions will be contested next Wednesday.
First-round games Saturday:
At Omaha Burke (National Division) — 10 a.m., Lincoln Pinnacle Bank (Lincoln Southwest) vs. Millard Sox Black; 1 p.m., PI Midwest (Prep) vs. South Sioux City; 4, KB Building Services (Omaha Westside) vs. Hastings Five Points Bank; 7, T. Hurt Construction (Burke) vs. DJ’s Dugout (Bellevue West).
At Kearney (American Division) — 10 a.m., Lincoln Judds Brothers (Lincoln Northeast) vs. Papillion Pinnacle Bank (Papillion-La Vista); 1 p.m., PrimeTime Patriots (Millard South) vs. Scottsbluff; 4, Roof Tech Wildcats (Millard West) vs. Grand Island Home Federal; 7, Associated Fire Protection (Papio South) vs. Kearney.
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