After winning its first American Legion Class A state championship, Gretna is ready to take the next step on its summer journey — a trip to Hastings to compete in the Mid-South Regional starting Wednesday at Duncan Field.
The 37-15 Dragons begin tournament play at 4:30 p.m. against Cabot, Arkansas. That game will precede the 6:30 contest between host Hastings Five Points Bank and Washington, Missouri.
"It was definitely quite an accomplishment to win state," Gretna coach Bryan O'Flynn said. "Now it's time to refocus on the regional."
O'Flynn, in his fourth season as head coach, said the postseason journey has been a grind. The Dragons were runners-up in the A-6 area tournament, then captured the American Division portion of the state tourney before defeating Fremont in the best-of-three championship that ended Saturday.
"We haven't had this many days without a game in quite awhile," he said. "Our guys are excited and ready to go."
O'Flynn points to the 11-1 victory over DC Electric (Bellevue West) in the first game of the division tournament as a key during the postseason. The Thunderbirds entered the tourney with a 49-2 record.
"We definitely didn't want to start off the (double-elimination) tournament with a loss," the coach said. "That win showed us anything was possible."
In the final series against Fremont, the Dragons won the first game before Fremont rallied to win the second. Gretna hung on for a 5-4 victory in the decisive third game as the Dragons avenged a 2019 final series loss against Fremont. There was no state tournament last year because of the pandemic.
O'Flynn said Fremont coach Jeff Hayden spoke to him for a few minutes after his team's season-ending loss Saturday. Hayden's squad competed at the Hastings regional two years ago after Fremont captured its first state title since 1946.
"Jeff is a great guy," O'Flynn said. "He said if there was any advice he could give me about playing out there to let him know."
In the state championship win, Rusty Wortman and Caden Boswell each had two RBIs. Jackson Shelburne went five innings to get the win, and Wortman — the team's catcher — came on to get the two-inning save.
Gretna won the Class B Legion title three years in a row from 2009-11, but only Class A features a regional trip. The Mid-South consists of teams from Nebraska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.
The eight regional champions advance to the Legion World Series in Shelby, North Carolina. Only one team from Nebraska — the 1939 McDevitt's squad from Omaha Creighton Prep — has captured the national title.
"This is a good, resilient group we've got," O'Flynn said. "We've been playing with a lot of confidence and hopefully that carries through to the regional."
The Mid-South Regional schedule (at Duncan Field, Hastings):
Wednesday — Pittsburg, Kansas vs. Oak Grove, Missouri, 10 a.m.; Dubuque County, Iowa vs. Grand Junction, Colorado, 1 p.m.; Cabot, Arkansas vs. Gretna, 4 p.m.; Washington, Missouri vs. Hastings Five Points Bank, 7.
Thursday — Losers bracket games at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.; winners bracket games at 4 and 7.
Friday — Games at 1 p.m., 4 and 7.
Saturday — Games at 4 p.m. and 7.
Sunday — Championship 1 p.m. (if necessary, a second game to follow at 4).
Mike covers high school sports, primarily volleyball in the fall, girls basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer. He also reports on horse racing for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @MPattersonOWH. Phone: 402-444-1350.