HICKMAN, NE — A year after finishing as runner-up at the Class B State Baseball Tournament, the Norris Titans right back in the field this year.

"The expectation here at Norris is to qualify for the state tournament," Norris Head Coach Sean Bartholomew said. "The kids set goals every year and that's one of their goals. I'm just proud of them for competing all year and making it there again."

Bartholomew’s squad enters the tourney as the number one seed. It’s the tenth season in a row the Titans have earned a spot in the tournament.

He explains how they achieved the feat again in 2022.

"Our pitching staff has really been key for us this year," Bartholomew said. "We've thrown a lot of strikes. Defensively for the most part we make the routine plays. We've been a little sporadic offensively here and there, but they've come through when we needed them to. When you can do those three things, typically things will go well for you."

On that offense, Norris’ biggest weapon has been sophomore Kale Fountain. The Florida State commit set the Class B single season record home runs this year.

Fountain's hit 11 home runs this year entering the state tournament. That beats Thomas Hall (2002) and Trever Triefel (2013) both of Nebraska City who each hit nine home runs in a single year.

"It's a lot of credit to our coaching staff and our players for putting me in situations to succeed with runners on so it's tough for other schools to pitch around me," Fountain said. "They gotta go after our best guys sometimes. When you get that mistake, you have to take advantage."

The Titans open the tournament Saturday morning against Waverly. Norris won’t overlook the Vikings.

"A 13-13 team doesn't say a lot about them, they're hot," Fountain. "Coming off a district win, especially against [Omaha] Skutt, they're going to have a lot of momentum. They could be one of the hottest teams in Class B right now."

After a championship game loss to Beatrice last year, Fountain says the team used that season-ending loss as motivation over the offseason and through the 2022 campaign as they climb to the top of the mountain.

"The regular season really went well for us and districts too," Fountain said. "We're just going to carry that momentum and try to create a new narrative for us. That's all we can ask for and we have to let it flow and see what happens out there."

If Norris claims the crown, it’ll be the schools first baseball championship since 2013 and second in school history.