In many ways, it's been a successful season for Omaha Burke.
The 12-6 Bulldogs are ranked eighth in the Top 10 and have earned the right to host one of the six Class A district tournaments. But coach Scott Hodges knows there's still room for improvement, a point he's hammered home to his squad.
“To be honest, I don't think we can be satisfied with that record,” he said. “We've talked about how we've let some games slip away and that we can't let that happen the rest of the way.”
Burke had high hopes after finishing 18-10 in 2012 and coming within one win of the state tournament. The Bulldogs returned eight position players and most of their pitching staff, but defensive lapses have cost Burke at times this season.
“It's been our Achilles' heel,” Hodges said. “But we've got a great group of kids who have really worked hard so there has also been a lot of positives.”
The biggest positive occurred April 8 when the Bulldogs hosted Omaha South. The squad raised almost $700 for cancer research while showing support for teammates Dylan Yost and Austin Plath.
Dylan's father, Larry, was diagnosed with cancer in December 2011 and passed away four months later. Austin's mother, Deanna, was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year and is undergoing treatment.
Deanna Plath threw out the first pitch at the game, won by the Bulldogs 7-3.
“Our football team has raised money in a similar way and so has our basketball team,” Hodges said. “It was time for us to do something, too. And I know our team is behind those families 100 percent.”
The coach added that he was prepared for any fallout from the opposition over the pink uniforms worn by the Bulldogs that night. The Burke girls basketball team encountered some highly publicized opposition from its foe last year over a similar pink uniform fundraiser.
“I had my letter from the NSAA (Nebraska School Activities Association) handy, just in case,” Hodges said. “But we didn't have any problem with that.”
Burke's roster includes five seniors who have contributed since their sophomore season — Yost, Plath, Ryan Cate, Turner Gaines and Kirby Leblanc.
“When you have that kind of experience, it's always going to be a positive,” Hodges said. “Now we just need to make sure that we finish strong.”
The Bulldogs will finish the regular season with two games this week before opening district play Saturday against Grand Island.
Ratings update: A strong performance in the Don Kraft Invitational last week keeps Papillion-La Vista South in the top spot. The Titans captured the championship Saturday night, defeating Omaha Westside 9-6.
The runner-up Warriors climb one slot to No. 2 while Millard West drops a spot to No. 3. Rounding out the top five are Millard South — up from No. 7 last week — and Millard North.
Undefeated Norris moves up this week from No. 10 to No. 7 in the Top 10. An erroneous score on the NSAA website last week had the Titans losing to Omaha Central, but Norris won that game 5-2 and remains the only undefeated team in the state.
The Class B top four — Norris, Lincoln Pius X, Omaha Skutt and Omaha Roncalli — remain the same. The SkyHawks won the Ram Invitational at Ralston's Orval Smith Field by defeating Class A Lincoln Southeast on Friday night while No. 5 Gretna defeated Class A Omaha North on Saturday to capture the Bellevue West Invitational.
Districts ahead: District play will begin later this week. Two districts begin Friday — A-1 at Bellevue East and B-3 at Omaha Skutt — while all other districts begin play Saturday.
All district finals are scheduled for May 6.
Statistics needed: Coaches are reminded to submit updated statistics by Friday. They may be emailed to email@example.com or faxed to 402-444-1238.
Contact the writer:
402-444-1350, firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter.com/MPattersonOWH