Southeast Community College is on the verge of an historic season.
Win the North Plains district baseball tournament against Iowa Central Community College this weekend and the Storm will be headed to the NJCAA Division II World Series for the first time.
It’s not going to be easy to win the best-of-three series, but coach Dion Parks said trying sure will be fun. They play at 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday at Christensen Field in Beatrice, with a third game Sunday, if necessary.
“It’s going to be a heck of a series,” Parks said. “We’re here, so we have a chance.”
The teams have played five times this season, with Iowa Central winning three. Three of the games were decided by one run.
Parks likes the resiliency of this squad, which won regionals for the third time in the past four years. They came out of the losers bracket at regionals and beat Bismarck State twice, including 8-7 in a 13-inning championship game.
Ben Palensky, a former Papillion-La Vista South standout who will play for UNO next year, homered to tie the game in the 12th and then sent home the winning run in the 13th with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly. He’s hitting .328 for the Storm (38-18).
Grant Van Scoy, from Papio, is the team leader with a .374 batting average along with seven home runs and 46 RBIs. He’s already signed with Illinois.
The hot hand on the mound is freshman Trey Kissack of Grand Island, who is 5-2 with a 3.55 ERA. He’ll get the start in the first game Saturday.
Parks said the Storm have had an improved pitching staff throughout the season, a good defense with a .975 fielding percentage and some scrappy hitters.
“Who makes the most plays is going to win,” he said. “I think it helps us to be at home and playing in our park.”
In other baseball news:
» Western Nebraska Community College’s season came to an end with a 15-5 loss to Colorado’s Trinidad State Junior College in the championship game of the Region IX Tournament. The Cougars finished 30-30 and won the Empire Conference championship for the first time in school history.
Herl, Dendinger to face off
Wayne State throws coach Brett Suckstorf is looking forward to a showdown at nationals between Nebraska’s two best throwers.
Mel Herl of Chadron State and Michaela Dendinger of Wayne State will be battling for titles in the shot put, discus and hammer throw. The NCAA Division II national tournament is May 25 to 27 in Bradenton, Florida.
Dendinger just completed a triple crown at the NSIC championships. She won the discus (157-8), shot (53-101⁄4) and hammer (208-5).
She ranks second in Division II in the shot and hammer as well as fifth in the discus.
Herl is first in the shot (55-6 1/4) and hammer (208-9) and second in the discus (187-2).
“They are both accomplishing really good things,” Suckstorf said. “It’s going to be fun to watch them compete against each other.”
Suckstorf said he’s talked to Dendinger about how anything can happen at nationals.
“The biggest thing I’ve tried to relay is focusing on herself and what she needs to do,” he said. “If we do that, there is a good possibility we could come home with a national championship.”
Herl isn’t the Eagles’ only national leader. Stachia Reuwsaat is first in the long jump at 21-81⁄4.
More throwers in spotlight
Nebraska’s dominance in the throws continues at the NAIA level. Those championships will be at the same time in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Shot putters from the GPAC hold four of the top five spots. Doane’s Zach Brittain is first (59-11⁄2), Zach Lurz of Concordia second (58-91⁄4), Alex Wellington of Hastings third (58-1⁄4) and Seth Sabata of Midland fifth (56-13⁄4).
For the women, Concordia’s Samantha Liermann is first (49-1), teammate Kali Robb third (48-3⁄4) and Hastings’ Eboni Nash fourth (47-101⁄2).
In the discus, Lurz is second (179-9) and Brittain fourth (172-2). Doane’s Kate Grint is the top woman at 158-9 with Katricia Svoboda of Concordia second (158-4), Nicole Ramaekers of Hastings third (157-10) and Teeka Thompson of Hastings fourth (157-10).
In the hammer, Concordia’s Cody Boellstorff is first (216-6), Midland’s Nathan Houser second (206-10) and Lurz third (206-6). Robb is second for the women (190-5), Concordia’s Sydney Meyer is third (179-3) and Hastings’ Sara Olsen is fifth (174-11).
Doane also has the national leader in the high jump in Dakarai Hightower (7-13⁄4).
“There are a lot of hard-working young men and women in our conference,” Doane throws coach David Dunnigan said. “Some may say they are overachieving but they are performing at a high level because of their work ethic. Programs in Nebraska have also put more focus on recruiting throwers as coaches have seen the points scored at nationals are just as valuable as they are in other events. Every time our throwers attend a meet throughout the year, it is basically a national-level competition, and that experience benefits the athletes when the NAIA meet rolls around.”
In other news
» Hastings coach Mike Schadwinkel has resigned after leading the wrestling program to one of its best conference finishes in school history.
For the first time in the program’s young history, Schadwinkel had the team in position for a possible Great Plains Athletic Conference title before falling to Concordia in the final dual. The Broncos finished third.
Jeremiah Gerl set a school record by placing fourth at nationals, the highest finish ever for a Bronco.
A search for a new head wrestling coach will begin immediately.
» Missouri Western third baseman Katie Klosterman picked up her third postseason honor by being named second-team Division II Conference Commissioner’s Association All-Central Region.
It was Klosterman’s second time on the D2CCA All-Region team after being named to the first team as a junior. The Millard West graduate was named first team All-MIAA and first team NFCA All-Region in addition to being chosen as the MIAA co-defensive player of the year. She finished her final season as a Griffon batting .294 with seven doubles and 10 home runs. She had 87 RBIs and committed just seven errors, starting all 58 games for Missouri Western.