Hastings to host first American Legion baseball regional in Nebraska since 2004

It’s been a while, but an American Legion baseball regional will be coming back to Nebraska.

It was announced Thursday that Hastings will host the 2019 and 2020 Central Plains Regionals at Duncan Field. Those will be the first regionals in the state since 2004 when one was held at Seymour Smith Park in Omaha.

“It’s a good thing for them,’’ Legion activities director Brent Hagel-Pitt said. “And it should be a great thing for fans here in Nebraska.’’

In recent years, teams representing Nebraska have had to travel to North Dakota for regional play. This year’s Central Plains Regional will be held in Dickinson, an 11-hour drive from Omaha.

The 2019 regional will be held Aug. 7-11 and the 2020 event will be Aug. 5-9.

The Hastings Baseball Twitter feed wrote Thursday that Duncan Field last hosted a regional in 1976. It previously had been played there in 1964, 1967 and 1972.

The Legion World Series was held in Hastings in 1959, 1960, 1961 and 1969. The eight-team World Series is now held annually in Shelby, North Carolina.

Yet to be determined is how many teams from Nebraska will move on to the regional when it is hosted here. In recent years, the state champion and state runner-up have advanced to regional play in North Dakota.

With Hastings as the host team, it is unlikely that three Nebraska teams will be competing in the same regional. The Central Plains regional also includes teams from South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota.

“That’s a decision that will be made on the national level,’’ Hagel-Pitt said. “It’ll probably never happen that we’ll have three from the same state in the same regional but it’s possible one team might be sent somewhere else.’’

That happened when Omaha hosted the 2004 regional as the team from Millard West, the state runner-up that year, was sent to the Mid-South Regional.

Another change recently announced on the national level is that all Legion games will be seven innings. Postseason games have been nine innings for the past several years.

The Legion World Series games were shortened to seven innings last year due to inclement weather affecting the schedule for the nationally televised games. Last year’s final included the team from Omaha Creighton Prep (Five Points Bank), which fell just short of becoming the second Nebraska champion ever.

“The vote was overwhelming by the states to make that innings change,’’ Hagel-Pitt said. “Teams will just need to adjust.’’