Chew on this: The American Legion team sponsored by the Panneton Dental Group is headed to the state tournament.
The PDG Storm (Elkhorn South) earned that berth following a strong performance at the Area A-4 tournament. Coach Brandon Dahl’s squad lost its tourney opener but roared back to win five in a row to capture the A-4 title.
“We finally put it all together those last few games,” the coach said. “Hopefully, we can keep that going at state.”
The key game for the Storm came Monday night when they defeated host Bennington 9-8. The Badgers had rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh to tie it but PDG pushed across a run in the bottom of the inning to win it.
“That was like a state tournament atmosphere,” Dahl said. “Winning that game meant we were going to state, so there was some extra pressure there.”
With that pressure off, the Storm played previously unbeaten Equitable Bank (Elkhorn North) for the A-4 title. Dahl’s squad posted a pair of wins and will ride that momentum into the National Division of the state tourney, to be contested at Den Hartog Field in Lincoln.
It was a satisfying performance for the squad that lost several players from the spring to the Prospects club team.
“We’ve got a new middle infield, a new outfield and pretty much a new pitching staff,” Dahl said. “It’s hard to start over again in the summer but I’m proud of the way our guys have handled it.”
He credited the school’s junior varsity coaches for having several of these Legion players ready to compete.
“It’s their time,” Dahl said. “We’ve needed guys to step up and they’ve responded.”
The 27-9 Storm will need to step up even more when the state tourney begins Saturday. The eight-team National Division includes Wolfe Electric (Millard West) and Five Points Bank (Omaha Creighton Prep), two of the top Legion squads this summer.
The other half of the state tourney will be contested starting Saturday at Bellevue East’s Roddy Field.
“Both brackets look solid,” Dahl said. “I really feel that the talent in Nebraska is at an all-time high.”
The team from Elkhorn South will open tournament play at 1 p.m. against Hastings, which finished as the runner-up in the Area A-7 tourney.
Dahl said his squad won’t get caught looking ahead to any possible games against the Metro Conference powers.
“Our guys just need to go out and play,” he said. “I like the way we finished at the area tournament so it would be nice to keep that momentum going.”
The National Division schedule (at Den Hartog Field)
Saturday: Wolfe Electric (Millard West) vs. Pinnacle Bank (Lincoln Southwest), 10 a.m.; PDG Dental Group (Elkhorn South) vs. Hastings Five Points Bank, 1 p.m.; Union Pizzeria (Millard North) vs. Five Points Bank (Om. Creighton Prep), 4 p.m.; Columbus vs. Judds Brothers (Lincoln Northeast), 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, 5 p.m. (if necessary, a second game will follow).
Photos: All-Nebraska baseball teams through the years
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.