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Bellevue West team battles back to earn spot in American Legion state tournament

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A shaky start at the American Legion area tournament didn’t stop the team from Bellevue West.

The DC Electric Thunderbirds will head back to the Class A Legion state tourney after finishing strong in that A-2 area tournament played at Brown Park.

Coach Jason Shockey’s squad lost its first game in the double-elimination event but won its next three to reach the tourney final. DC Electric finished as the runner-up to the team from Millard West, good enough to get the Thunderbirds into the American Division of the state tourney.

“When you lose that first game, it’s tough to come back,” Shockey said. “I’m proud of the way our guys responded when their backs were against the wall.”

DC Electric lost that opener against Peitzmeier Demolition (Omaha Gross) but stayed alive with wins over teams from Omaha South and Papillion-La Vista South. The Thunderbirds then won a rematch against the squad from Gross, securing their spot at state.

“We didn’t play well in that first game, but we still had a lot of pitching left,” Shockey said. “We were able to regroup despite the fact we have a lot of young guys this season.”

The Thunderbirds had a veteran squad led by 12 seniors last summer and went 52-4, but came up short of a state title. Shockey’s much less experienced team went 17-12 this past spring and missed out on a state tourney berth.

His young squad continued to gain confidence this summer and went 39-11, which included two first-place tournament finishes. The Thunderbirds also went 4-1 in the 96-team Gopher Classic in suburban Minneapolis, the largest Legion tourney in the nation.

“We’ve battled all season long,” Shockey said. “That’s why I think nobody really panicked when we lost that first game the other day.”

DC Electric will play in the American Division opener Saturday at 10 a.m. at Bellevue East’s Roddy Field against Carpet Land (Lincoln East). The Spartans have been one of the top Legion teams this summer.

“We haven’t seen them all year,” Shockey said. “It will be a tough first test for us, that’s for sure.”

The National Division of the 16-team state tournament will be contested starting Saturday at Den Hartog Field in Lincoln.

“Both brackets look really tough to me,” Shockey said. “Some years one looks tougher than the other, but I think both halves of the tourney will be very competitive.”

The American Division also includes spring Class A runner-up Millard South, spring Class B state champion Elkhorn North, defending Class A state Legion champion Gretna and 2021 Legion state tourney runner-up Fremont.

“Whoever wins this tournament is definitely going to have to earn it,” Shockey said. “We’re happy to get the opportunity to play.”

The American Division schedule (at Roddy Field)

Saturday: DC Electric (Bellevue West) vs. Carpet Land (Lincoln East), 10 a.m.; Equitable Bank (Elkhorn North) vs. Grand Island Home Federal, 1 p.m.; Gretna vs. 52s Patriots (Millard South), 4; Fremont First State Bank vs. Hike Real Estate (Bellevue East), 7.

Sunday: Losers bracket games at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.; winners bracket games at 4 and 7.

Monday: Losers bracket games at 1 and 4 p.m.; winners bracket game at 7.

Tuesday: Games at 4 and 7 p.m.

Wednesday: Championship, 4 p.m. (if necessary, a second game will follow).

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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.

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