It has been a little while since the Neligh Seniors have been in action and they will jump right back into the thick of the season in a big way. They now must take on some of the strongest teams in Class B this weekend at the B5 Area Tournament in Wayne, with a trip to the state tournament on the line.
1. The who and what
You won't find too many tournaments as deep as the B5 Tournament. With a top seed like West Point, it's already a daunting task to make it to the finals. They will have a bye to start the weekend and will face the winner of Neligh, the five seed, and Lakeview, the four seed. Taking the second seed is O'Neill and they will take on the seventh seed, Schuyler. Ponca earned the three seed and will take on sixth seeded Wayne to start the tournament. Neligh's game is scheduled for a 2 p.m. first pitch on Friday, followed by O'Neill's - including Orchard's Brenden Cleveland - game at 4:30 p.m.
2. How's the weather?
Surprise! Its going to be hot. Fortunately, it is supposed to progressively cool down as the weekend rolls on. Highs for Friday are predicted for 97 degrees, dropping to a forecasted high of 87 on Championship Tuesday.
Now last time we talked, the forecast called for no rain at all and there was rain aplenty. This time around, we promise it won't rain, at least until Tuesday. There is a fairly good chance of rain on championship night. Then again, even trained meteorologists are only right half the time, so we can be too, right?
3. Neligh needs the pitching staff's best
The amount of firepower in this tournament is outstanding. To keep up, Neligh is going to need to get more performances similar to Tyson Belitz's 18-strikeout gem last week. Pitching staffs generally make or break a team in these long tournaments, so it'll be important for the likes of Luke Jacobsen, Tyson Zegers, Jayden Arehart and Cole Belitz to step up.
4. O'Neill will be a tough out
Cleveland and the O'Neill Irish Seniors are an athletic group and they use it well on the diamond. Coming in as the second seed is just a formality - they should be the favorite to lock of the B5 Area's state tournament spot. Expect them to see little resistance, at least in the first two rounds. They are deep on the mound and can score in droves.
5. It all ends here
The x-factor for the weekend is the same for all seven teams in the tournament - win and you keep your season alive. The Juniors are done so now the spotlight is all on the Seniors. Many of these kids are prepping for their last ball games ever and likely aren't ready to call it quits yet. Don't be too surprised if there is an upset or two thanks to some gutsy play by a few of those kids that aren't ready to see their careers end.