Photo by Tenley Wright
Due to COVID-19, the season was very different from what a normal summer season would look like. There weren’t as many games, restrictions to what could happen on the field, and multiple last minute game cancellations.
The spring season for Millard West was shut down because of the virus. There was a lot of skepticism on whether or not the legion season would happen. Legion baseball is different from spring season for schools because they have a sponsor that their team is named after. Millard West’s varsity team is sponsored by Wolfe Electric so they are called the Wolfe Electric Wildcats.
After the spring season was cancelled, it was unknown whether or not they would have the opportunity to play this summer. After they announced the season would happen, players were ready to get to work.
“They had to learn to grow and mature on the baseball field and that was their focus instead of having to worry about the pandemic around them,” head varsity baseball coach Steve Frey said. “ I was happy the seniors got to play on their home field and just play some games, but I felt so bad for them knowing they were looking forward to having a great team to try to defend their state title and to see that taken away, it was tough.”
Not only did players have to change what they did off the field at home, but they had to change the things they did out on the field. Players had to be more careful with what they did by maintaining social distancing and trying not to come in direct contact with other players.
“You really had to be more cautious in what you did, who you touched, and so on,” former Millard West baseball player and current Nebraska freshman Max Anderson said. “Once we were playing the games though, it felt just like old times being able to play baseball which is what really made it worth it.”
It was hard for players to go out and work out during this time. They had to find ways to make themselves better throughout the season in ways they hadn’t before. However, the absence of the spring season really laid the foundation for this special season.
“Most gyms and training centers are closed or regulated so you had to find other ways to develop yourself as a player,” senior pitcher Corbin Hawkins said. “When you have something so special like a spring season taken away and you get a little tiny piece of your season back, you have no choice but to give your all for the guy next to you.”
The Wildcats did not get a very long regular season. They were scheduled to play 24 regular season games, and ended up only playing 12. They went 7-5 in the shortened season. After the July 10th game, they were scheduled to play nine games, but each one was cancelled. So, West ended up not playing for 13 straight days.
However, even with the shortened season, there were still a lot of memorable games including a 13-0 blowout against Creighton Prep where there was a lot of dugout chatter between the teams. They had a 6-3 win against Westside in the Metro tournament, and a 27-12 victory against rival Millard South.
“My personal favorite game was the prep game at prep that max went 4/4 and I threw a no hitter,” Hawkins said. “That was the most electric I’ve ever seen our dugout during a summer game.”
Millard West made most of the season, playing like nothing had changed. They played in a lot of competitive games against great teams, and had a lot of solid performances. Hawkins had a great year on the mound, and Anderson had a fantastic year hitting 7 home runs, and 17 RBIs in only 18 games.
“It did feel great to have a good year and kind of go out on a high note,” Anderson said. “It was a great way to finish off my long career.”
The Cats battled throughout the year, and got the opportunity to play in the Metro Tournament against some of the best teams in the area. In the first round, they went 1-1. They beat Omaha Central 2-1, but lost to Elkhorn South 7-4. In Metro tournament rounds though, if all three teams go 1-1, it goes to the team who allowed the least amount of runs. The Wildcats allowed the least amount in this round so they got to move onto round two which took place at Westside High School.
The second round had three of the better teams in the metro. Millard West, Westside and Burke were the three teams competing in this round. Whoever won this round moved on to the final four. All three teams went 1-1 just like in the last round. The Wildcats lost to Burke 4-2, but then beat Westside 6-3. It wasn’t enough to win the round, because the Warriors allowed the least amount of runs. Westside moved onto the final four and ended up competing in the Metro championship.
Millard West still got to compete in the Elkhorn South silver bracket tournament up against the Storm and Papio South. They went 1-1 again in this tournament, beating Papio South, but losing to Elkhorn South. The Wildcats scored a total of 136 runs and allowed 102 runs in 18 games
“It was how our team handled this summer with class,” Frey said. “They were just happy to be out there and it was memorable to see them out on the field for the first time and it looked like the excitement you see on a youth baseball field where the kids out there just love to play the game and they can just concentrate on baseball and forget about everything off the field.”
The Wildcats ended up finishing the year 10-8, and second in the silver bracket tournament. They fought hard all year, and overcame a lot to be able to play this season. Even though this past summer looked very different, the Wildcats still played their hearts out and put out many memorable performances on the diamond.