This season didn’t start the way coach Dion Parks would have liked.
But if his Southeast Community College baseball team can win two more games this weekend, the Storm will finish right where they had hoped.
Southeast will play Kirkwood in Iowa in a best-of-three series, with the winner advancing to the NJCAA Division II World Series in Enid, Oklahoma.
“The 1-6 start was tough, but our guys got together and started to play with more energy,” said Parks, whose team went 40-20 last season when it reached the World Series for the first time. “Once we started that run, we got some confidence going.”
Southeast won 25 of 27 after its 1-6 start and now is 41-14. The Storm are coming off a 3-0 showing at the Region 13 tournament in Williston, North Dakota. In the region’s final Saturday night, the Storm trailed 10-9 in the 10th inning before scoring twice, winning the game on a sacrifice fly.
The Storm are averaging 9.2 runs per game, so coming up with timely offense is nothing new.
“Once one person kind of gets going, the rest of the guys get going, too,” Parks said. “(In the preseason) I thought we had as many good hitters up and down the lineup as we’ve had here. In the lineup, there’s no real weak spot.”
The Storm are batting .332 as a team and are among the top seven nationally in home runs (65), stolen bases (163) and runs per game.
Parks said Aaron Palensky, a freshman from Papillion-La Vista South, is having an All-America type of season, as he’s batting .415 with 16 homers and 72 RBIs.
“Another guy who’s had a pretty productive year at the top of our lineup is Masen Prososki,” said Parks of the sophomore from Bennington who is batting .404, with 81 runs scored and 49 steals. “He’s kind of the catalyst, makes our offense go.”
Prososki was a starter on last year’s World Series team. Other returning everyday starters are Bellevue East grad Chris Cornish (.313, 56 RBIs), Grand Island’s Alec Lee (.324, 12 HRs, 47 RBIs) and Papio’s Trevor Jurjevich (.348, 30 RBIs).
The Storm pitching staff is led by Millard South grad Kayleb Sanderson, who is 9-0 with a 2.14 ERA. He’s struck out 84 and walked 11 in 59 innings.
“Kayleb’s been outstanding,” Parks said. “Every time he goes out there, we feel like we have a chance to win. He’s the biggest competitor when he’s on the mound.”
Southeast’s series with Kirkwood begins at noon Saturday.
In other Midlands notes:
» Wayne State senior Michaela Dendinger won all three throws for the second year in a row at the Northern Sun conference meet Saturday. She set a NSIC record in the shot put, with a throw of 54-3¾. She also won the discus (166-6) and hammer (203-3).
» Nebraska Wesleyan won the IIAC women’s outdoor meet, edging Wartburg by 14 points. That broke Wartburg’s 18-year streak of winning the conference outdoor title. Millard North grad Elizabeth Jones won the 400, was part of the winning 400 relay, and placed second in the 200 for Wesleyan.
» UNK junior Alex Achtermann was named the MIAA baseball player of the year. He hit .413 with 15 homers and 57 RBIs while also going 6-1 as a pitcher. Damon Day was named the conference’s coach of the year.
Playing its final season as a program, UNK’s year ended at 28-24 with a loss in the MIAA tournament Friday.
» Peru State outfielder Bryan Ventura Castro and pitcher Eddy Tavarez Cabrera were named to the Heart of America conference first team.