There are three days left in the 20th season of Nebraska high school softball, and there are plenty of reasons why it’s been a memorable season even before the state tournament kicks off Wednesday in Hastings.
All three defending state champions are back and well positioned to make a run at repeat titles. Wahoo is going for a three-peat in Class C while Millard South and Omaha Skutt are hoping to add their names to the short list of programs that have won consecutive titles.
There’s been only one program that’s made it to every state tournament — Papillion-La Vista. The 26-7 Monarchs are ranked, seeded fifth and hoping to win their opening-round game for the 19th consecutive season.
Standing in Papio’s way is the team that has the shortest distance to travel — third-ranked Grand Island. The Islanders have posted more victories than anyone in the state this season with their 36-4 record. Not one of the other 23 teams in the three-class tournament has even played more than 36 games.
Three schools are preparing for their first appearance at state. Omaha Benson makes its debut in Class A with a 23-8 record while York and Grand Island Northwest are the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, respectively, in Class B.
With two wins in Hastings, Northwest coach Dave Prokesh — who spent many seasons at Columbus Lakeview — will become the sixth member of the 300-win club. With a 28-1 record this season, Prokesh’s career mark stands at 298-109.
One more thought before I try my hand at picking the state champions.
This is the sixth season Hastings will host the state tournament. This was supposed to be the year the tournament would return to the Omaha metro and be played at Champions Village in Bellevue. But after watching the Metro Conference tournament final last month at that complex, it obviously isn’t ready to host an event this big.
Coaches rightfully griped about the less-than-ideal playing conditions, and there still are not enough stands for large groups of fans. There’s no central building yet to accommodate umpires, tournament officials and the media, and many of those on hand for the Metro championship game couldn’t find the concessions area.
The tournament is scheduled to go back to Hastings next year and to Bellevue in 2014 in the final year of the four-year agreement. My hunch — we’ll be back in Hastings in 2014 and beyond. No complaints here.
As for picking the state champs, just peek at the ratings. There are plenty of teams on the “it wouldn’t surprise me if they won list,” especially in Class C.
But two teams will be eliminated Wednesday and three more on Thursday in each class, leaving nine on the final day to play for one of the three state championship trophies.
My best guess is that Millard West in Class A, Omaha Skutt in Class B and Fairbury in Class C will be those teams.
Care to disagree? Join me on NEPrepZone.com all three days for our usual spirited chats and updates.
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