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KEARNEY — Kearney High qualified for the Class A baseball state tournament after defeating top-seeded Millard West in the district final Saturday.

The eighth-seeded Bearcats (17-8) will begin the double-elimination state tournament with another difficult challenge in Elkhorn South at 4 p.m. Saturday at Sherman Field in Lincoln.

“Hopefully it gives us a confidence boost,” coach Brad Archer said. “We know Elkhorn South is on the same level as Millard West.”

The top-seeded Storm (19-3) are riding a 17-game winning streak and have outscored teams 184-58.

The Storm’s offense is hitting .356 and averaging more than eight runs per game. They have eight players hitting over .300 in at least 40 at-bats.

Nebraska commit Sayer Diederich leads the Storm with a .443 batting average with four doubles, three triples, one home run and 18 RBIs. He also is one of the Storm’s best pitchers. The senior left-hander has a 1.62 ERA with 47 strikeouts and 14 walks allowed in 26 innings.

Their pitching staff has a 2.06 ERA this season. Besides Diederich, junior Truitt Luth and sophomore Jax Brockett have been key members of their pitching staff.

“Anytime you play the first or second round, whether it’s districts or state tournament, you are going to face maybe the team’s No. 1 pitcher or for sure their No. 2,” Archer said.

The Bearcats offense is averaging 6.8 run per game. Brayden Miller leads the everyday players with a .345 batting average. He also has 11 doubles, two triples, two home runs and 14 RBIs.

Archer is debating who to start on the mound against Elkhorn South, as he’s taking into account potential matchups in the second game of the tournament, he said.

Mason Casper and Noah Carpenter have been the Bearcats top starters. Casper has a 2.44 ERA with 52 strikeouts and 21 walks allowed in a team-high 37 1/3 innings. Carpenter is coming off a notable 8 2/3-inning start against Millard West. He has a 2.17 ERA with 32 strikeouts and 11 walks allowed in 32 1/3 innings.

Although this is the Bearcats’ first season playing high school baseball, Archer isn’t surprised by their success.

“We’ve always had good kids here that are good athletes and baseball players,” Archer said. “I thought the biggest question mark this spring would be our pitching. Our pitching has been really good for us. A lot better than what I thought it might be.”

@DanZielinski3

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