Dominating day on the diamond

Millard West outscores Lincoln Southwest and Northeast by a combined 25-7


Photo by Tenley Wright

Senior Tyler Merkel swinging big at a pitch in the home opener. He finished the day with a total of six RBIs and three doubles. “Our momentum from winning the first game carried over into the second one and I think that just overwhelmed the Northeast guys,” Merkel said. “We have a lot of trust in each one of our teammates to get the job done.”

Jonathan Willis, Striv Executive Producer

The varsity baseball team kicked off their home slate on March 20 in a doubleheader against Lincoln Southwest and Lincoln Northeast.

 The Wildcats had played in a doubleheader the day before in Kansas City and went 1-1, losing 9-6 to Blue Valley High School and then bouncing back with an 11-6 win over Mill Valley High School. 

Millard West would first face off against Lincoln Southwest. The Silver Hawks came into this matchup ranked seventh in Class A, according to Nebraska Prep Zone and finished the 2019 season with a 15-8 record. This was also their first home game in almost two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It definitely gives me a greater appreciation for everything,” junior Jaxson Cahoy said. “The fact that we’re able to compete and have so many fans in attendance just feels great.”

Southwest started the first inning with a bang. On the first pitch of the game, senior Max Petersen hit a home run into right field off of senior Kael Dumont to give the Hawks an early 1-0 advantage. In the bottom of the first, Millard West was able to get one run to come across on a wild pitch by senior Telo Arsiaga. 

The Silver Hawks were able to come back in the third inning with one run of their own, but then the Wildcats took over in the third and fourth inning. They scored a combined nine runs throughout the two. In the bottom of the third, junior Avery Moore hit a two-run homer and senior Tyler Merkel got a two run double to put the Cats up. During the bottom of the fourth, Millard West worked the bases well, and senior Corbin Hawkins and Merkel both got big RBIs to put the Wildcats up 10-2. 

Lincoln Southwest didn’t quit, though, and put up five runs of their own in the top of the fifth. Arsiaga got the scoring started, scoring a double RBI in the right field gap to get the Silver Hawks going. Senior Joon Dunsmore added another run off of a single and senior Will Johnson scored two runs on a double. One more run came across on a pitch that got away from the catcher which cut the Wildcat lead to three. 

“In that first game, we were just able to outlast them,” head coach Steven Frey said. “It seemed that whatever team would be the last one swinging would have the best chance to win. If you go up there thinking about the wind, which was blowing at about 18 miles an hour, you’ll be in trouble, so we just tried to keep everything the same. I thought our guys played well through the conditions.”

Millard West was able to score one in the bottom of the fifth on a sacrifice fly by junior Maddux Fleck. The story for the rest of the game would be solid pitching. No more runs were scored, as both bullpens started to put in good work. Junior Dylan Driessen came on for the Wildcats with one out in the sixth inning and recorded the last five outs, giving Millard West the home opener 11-7 victory.

Dumont got the victory for the Wildcats with 3.2 innings pitched, one earned run and eight strikeouts. Merkel led the team’s hitting with two doubles and four RBIs, making the win possible. The game was extremely long, lasting almost three hours, due to the large amount of baserunners and errors. 

“My only thought when hitting is do what can help my team the most,” Merkel said. “With these being the first few games, there’s going to be some growing pains as a team, but with saying that, no one in that game doubted our ability to come out on top.” 

Millard West would then face off against Lincoln Northeast. The Rockets were 0-2 on the season headed into this matchup and had faced Westside earlier in the day which resulted in a 6-1 Warrior victory. 

It was pure domination right from the first pitch for the Wildcats. Millard West scored 10 runs in the bottom of the first inning to pull away early. Merkel, Fleck, seniors Ty Kalb, Cade Owens and juniors Nick Boring and Rice Whitaker all drove in runs in the bottom half of the inning. Whitaker had a strong hitting performance with three RBIs while Merkel continued his solid day, adding another two RBI’s which got his total to six on the day. 

Lincoln Northeast could not get anything going on the hitting side of things, going scoreless throughout the whole game. Cahoy and sophomore Caleb Lanphear combined for the shutout. Cahoy got the win with three innings pitched, only one hit allowed, zero earned runs and seven strikeouts. The Rockets would only get a total of two hits on the day. 

“Once I was able to find the umpire’s strike zone, the game was a lot smoother,” Cahoy said. “When the game started, I couldn’t quite figure out how I was going to deal with the wind, but as the game went on, I started to throw the ball at other spots so the wind could carry the ball to where I wanted it to. After I figured out the wind situation, I knew I was going to get back on my game and help my team get the win.”

Millard West scored four more runs throughout the second and third inning behind a single RBI by Whitaker, two wild pitches by senior Jackson Carter and a base hit by Boring to put the Cats up by 14. Due to the mercy rule, the game ended after the top of the fifth. Millard West won 14-0 and wrapped up a solid performance on the day. 

“We got a chance with how the games went to see a lot of players,” Frey said. “We made some early season mistakes, but I thought, for the most part, our pitchers played well. We have some things we need to work on, but I mean anytime you go 3-1 and play well but not where we need to be, that’s pretty nice to see early in the year.”

Millard West improved to 3-1 on the year. They will return home on the 24th to play Bellevue East. That game will be live on the Millard West Striv channel.