Calm and poised aren't two adjectives usually associated with high school sophomores.
Meet Grant Suponchick, Papillion-La Vista South's exception to the rule.
The Titans ace faced the minimum number of batters in four innings Saturday and weathered a tough third inning in leading top-ranked Papio South to a 3-2 victory over Lincoln Southwest in the opening game of the Class A state baseball tournament.
“He's just really low key,” Titans coach Bill Lynam said. “Nothing excites him too much. He's just a fierce competitor.”
Completely trusting his teammates in the field is what Suponchick said makes his job a whole lot easier.
“When you have a defense like this, there's no need to have nerves,” Suponchick said. “I get ground balls and they make great plays.”
Suponchick set the Silver Hawks down in order in the top of the first with a strikeout and two infield groundouts. The Titans responded with their biggest — and only — inning of offense.
With one out, senior second baseman Sam Palensky doubled down the left-field line as the ball bounced off the third base bag. Palensky then took third on a passed ball on the first pitch to Josh Kiger, who eventually singled Palensky home.
Kiger moved to second on another passed ball by Southwest starter Brayden Young. Suponchick then aided his own cause with a double to the gap in right-center field that plated Kiger for a 2-0 lead.
Papio South's third double of the inning — a shot down the left field line by Zach Hansen — scored Michael Buell, the courtesy runner for Suponchick.
“That first inning we came out smoking,” Lynam said. “We were swinging the bats well the entire game, we just didn't execute in certain spots.”
Southwest's bats came to life in the top of the third inning. Center fielder Easton Edmond led off with a double to right, and shortstop Joe Bechtle reached base when the fly ball he hit fell out of the Titan right fielder's glove.
With runners at second and third, designated hitter Logan Foster grounded out to shortstop but picked up an RBI when Edmond raced home from third.
Young then singled to center and moved Bechtle to third before second baseman Derek Glen hit another single to center that brought Bechtle home and cut Papio South's lead to 3-2. Southwest's rally ended with a 1-6-3 double play.
“Their big inning was one run bigger than our big inning,” Southwest coach Doug Kaltenberger said. “Pitching and impressive defense on both teams took over the rest of the time.”
The Silver Hawks (12-13) had three hits in that third inning and only two in the other six innings. Southwest will play Omaha Burke at 4 p.m. Monday in an elimination contest at Fricke Field in Papillion, while the Titans (21-2) meet Millard South at 4 at Werner Park.
Lincoln Southwest (21-2) …....................... 002 000 0 – 2 5 4
Papillion-La Vista South (12-13) …............... 300 000 x – 3 8 1
W: Grant Suponchick. L: Brayden Young. 2B: LSW, Eric Anderson, Easton Edmond. PLVS, Sam Palensky, Suponchick, Zach Hansen.
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