Early-season rain and snow disrupted some teams, but not Papillion-La Vista South.
The Titans are off to a 9-1 start and climb to the No. 1 spot this week in Class A. Papio South, which won state championships in 2010 and 2011, appears to be back on track after narrowly missing the state tournament last spring.
“We don’t really dwell on not making state last year,” coach Bill Lynam said. “We had a successful summer and we’ve put goals in place for this year.”
The return of 12 seniors gives Lynam an experienced squad, and even the nasty weather that effectively wiped out the first two weeks of the season didn’t derail the Titans.
“It gave us a chance to work on our fundamentals,” Lynam said. “But like everybody else, we were ready to start playing.”
He also broke up the practice routine by taking his players to an indoor baseball facility during spring break.
“I think that helped us spice things up a little bit,” he said. “You can only do so many things in the gym.”
The inclement weather also allowed basketball players such as Brent Kirsch, a three-year starter at third base, to catch up to the rest of the team. The Titans made the state basketball tournament for the first time this season but were eliminated by eventual champion Omaha Central in the opening round.
The baseball team won two of its first three games, losing to Omaha Westside 3-2. The Titans have won their past seven, outscoring their opponents 95-18.
“I thought going into the season that we would hit the ball and defend pretty well,” Lynam said. “The big question was pitching, but so far our guys have done a nice job.”
Papio South’s top hitters have been four of the returning senior starters — Kirsch, Sam Palensky, Josh Kiger and Chris May — along with sophomore Grant Suponchick. Leading the pitching staff have been Suponchick and Kiger and seniors Tegan Nissen and Dalton Smith.
Lynam, in his 10th season as head coach, said he wasn’t too surprised by some of the early upsets this season. Defending Class A champion Omaha Creighton Prep has lost three games, preseason No. 4 Lincoln Southwest is 3-7 and 2012 state tournament runner-up Lincoln Northeast is still seeking its first win.
“I think the weather has played a factor in some of that,” Lynam said, “and I think Class A is pretty wide open this season.”
He added that all coaches probably were happy to finally see some decent weather last week — the Titans played five games in six days. This week, Papio South plays at Millard West on Tuesday and Omaha Bryan on Wednesday before the start of the three-day Metro Conference tournament Thursday.
“It’s hard to believe that districts are less than four weeks away,” Lynam said. “Hopefully we can keep it going.”
The rash of early season upsets scrambled the Class A Top 10. Lining up behind the Titans are No. 2 Millard West, No. 3 Westside, No. 4 Millard South and No. 5 Bellevue West.
New to the Top 10 are No. 7 Lincoln North Star and No. 9 Papillion-La Vista. The 6-3 Navigators have defeated three teams that were ranked in the preseason while the 6-3 Monarchs handed second-ranked Millard West one of its two losses.
In Class B, No. 1 Norris (10-0) and No. 2 Lincoln Pius X (6-0) are the only unbeaten teams left in the state. The Titans’ pitching staff has been especially strong, yielding an average of less than one run per game.
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Top games this week
Class A — Monday: Omaha Central at Papillion-La Vista (Fricke Field), 5; Omaha Gross at Millard North, 6. Tuesday: Omaha Creighton Prep at Bellevue West, 4:30; Papillion-La Vista South at Millard West, 5; Omaha Burke at Papillion-La Vista (Fricke Field), 5. Thursday-Friday: Heartland Athletic Conference tournament. Thursday-Saturday: Metro Conference tournament.
Class B — Monday: Blair at Norris, 6:30; Wahoo at Omaha Skutt, 6:30. Tuesday-Friday: Eastern Midlands Conference tournament. Thursday-Friday: River Cities Conference tournament. Saturday: Elkhorn at Lincoln Pius X (Densmore).
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