Soaring past the SkyHawks

Wildcats defeat Skutt in a close contest on the diamond


Photo by David Rochford

Senior Corbin Hawkins had a big game against Skutt; he went 2-3 on the day with a stolen base and two runs scored. “I’ve just been trying to have competitive at bats,” Hawkins said. “Winning those 1-2, 2-2 and 3-2 counts, to apply pressure on the pitcher and defense.”

Joseph Ebmeier, Staff Reporter

Coming into the game fresh off a pair of dominant wins against Lee’s Summit West the Millard West Varsity Baseball team battled the Skutt SkyHawks on Tuesday, March 30.

Millard West entered the game with a record of 7-2 while Skutt came into the game with a record of 4-2. Junior Mason Koch toed the rubber for the Wildcats while senior Ben Hawk was on the bump for the SkyHawks. The Wildcats have had a prolific offense this season with multiple players batting over .400 and a team batting average of .360.

The Wildcats started off with back to back hits in the first inning, however, they could not bring any runs home. That changed in the second inning when sophomore Caleb Lanphear led off the inning with a single to right field. Junior Rice Whitaker followed that up with a grounder back at the pitcher who threw Lanphear out at second, and Whitaker reached on the fielders choice. Whitaker got himself into scoring position when he stole second base a few pitches later. Junior Devin Jones then hit a liner into left, putting him on first base and moving Whitaker to third. Hawk picked off to first which resulted in Jones getting in a run down. After the SkyHawks tagged Jones out, a bad throw allowed Whitaker to score, giving the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.

The SkyHawks were able to come right back with a run of their own in the top of the third. Junior Zach Zmudzindki led off the inning with a walk, he was able to steal second, putting him into scoring position quickly. A pair of errors allowed Zmudzindki to score all the way from second, knotting the game at 1 a piece.

Millard West couldn’t get anything going in the bottom of the third, which meant the SkyHawks were back at bat. Senior Sam Borsh started the inning off with a four pitch walk and stole second base a few pitches later. Junior Dylan Brisbois was able to work a walk of his own, giving Skutt runners on first and second with no outs. Koch then recorded a strikeout, but threw a wild pitch to the next batter, allowing both runners to advance a base. The next SkyHawk batter was hit by a pitch, and then Koch walked another batter. That was the final batter Koch would face for the day. He pitched 3 ⅓ innings, with six strikeouts and six walks.

“My arm became a little bit fatigued due to it being early in the season,” Koch said. “It forced my off speed to become less consistent, forcing me to change my game plan, and I couldn’t adjust fast enough.”

The Wildcats then called on senior Justin Deremer to finish the inning. The first batter Deremer faced was senior Ethan Grossjung, after working the count to 2-2 Grossjung cracked a single in the middle, scoring two more runs, giving Skutt a 4-1 lead. Deremer was then able to get back to back groundouts to end the inning, but the Wildcats were faced with a three-run deficit entering the home half of the fourth inning.

Senior Cade Owens led off the inning with a first pitch triple, giving Millard West a chance to narrow the deficit. A couple of pitches later, junior Drew Borner was hit a double to right field, narrowing the SkyHawk lead to two and giving the Wildcats some momentum. Lanphear hit a popup to center shortly after, allowing Borner to tag up and take third base. Whitaker was able to score Borner with a soft base hit to the right fielder, however, Whitaker was able to go all the way to third on an error by the right fielder, giving the Wildcats a chance to tie the game. However, they could not tie the game, and the final two outs of the inning were recorded and the game went to the fifth inning with Skutt up, 4-3.

The top of the fifth inning was a rather quick one for the SkyHawks. They had only one hit and two base runners, which yielded them zero runs. This put the game back in the hands of Millard West with a bit of momentum and a chance to take the lead. Junior Maddux Fleck led off the inning with a first pitch base hit. However, he was quickly eliminated when senior Corbin Hawkins grounded into a fielder’s choice; Hawkins was safe at first, Fleck out at second. The next two batters, junior Avery Moore and Owens both worked walks, giving the Wildcats bases loaded with Borner coming up. Borner came up big with a two run single, giving the Wildcats their first lead of the game.

“I think our success in the middle, to late innings had to do with our hits to the opposite field,” Hawkins said. “The wind was blowing straight in so once we understood we had to have a middle/away approach, that’s when we started to get guys on over and in.”

The SkyHawks had a strong top of the sixth inning, due to some unforced errors by Millard West. A pair of walks, a couple of stolen bases, and a few errors allowed Skutt to score two more runs, giving them a 6-4 lead. Millard West brought Lanphear in to pitch, and he led them out of the inning before things got worse but time was running out on the Wildcats.

The Wildcats started the home half of the sixth inning strong. Whitaker led off the inning with a single up the middle, giving Millard West some life. Millard West brought in senior Ty Kalb to pinch hit, he hit a grounder to the second baseman who threw Whitaker out a second and Kalb reached first on the fielders choice. Kalb was replaced at first, however, as head coach Steve Frey brought Jones in to pinch run. The SkyHawk pitcher walked the next three batters, giving Moore a huge opportunity with the bases loaded — he did not disappoint. Moore hit a triple to right field bringing three runs home for the Wildcats and giving them the lead back, 8-6. That is how the game would end as Skutt could not bring across any runs in their final at bats of the game.

“We’re going for the state title,” Koch said. “We have things to improve on before that’s a reality, but that is the goal.”

This win pushed the Wildcats to 8-2 while the loss for Skutt drops their record to 4-3. Millard West will face off against the Elkhorn South Storm later tonight where the Wildcats hope to keep their momentum going on their quest for a second State title.