Looking ahead to the postseason

Wildcats are on to Districts after a season full of ups and downs


Photo by Tenley Wright

Junior Drew Borner celebrates in a game against Gretna in the Metro Tournament. Millard West would win this game 6-1 to advance to play Millard South in the second round. “Most of us hadn’t really played varsity baseball so we had no idea what to expect,” Borner said. “I think we handled it very well. We went through lots of ups and downs, but played our best ball in the games that mattered the most.”

Jonathan Willis, Striv Executive Producer

The varsity baseball team wrapped up the regular season on May 3, when they took on the Creighton Prep Junior Jays. The game capped off a long stretch of games for the Wildcats, as Millard West has played the most out of any Class A team in Nebraska this year. 

Millard West finished the regular season with a record of 22-11 and took down eight Top 10 ranked teams. It was a long up and down stretch for the Cats with win streaks and losing streaks, but ultimately, it was a very successful regular season for Millard West. 

The Wildcats started out the season with two straight doubleheaders on March 19 and 20. They went 3-1 in those games, outscoring Mill Valley, Lincoln Southwest and Lincoln Northeast 36-13. They would then win eight of their next nine games, their only loss being against Lincoln Southeast in their own triangular 4-3. 

“We started the year with a lot of hype and excitement,” junior Drew Borner said. “We played with lots of energy in those games. Our bats started pretty hot early. Our pitchers also threw a lot of strikes.”

In the beginning of April, the struggles would begin for the Wildcats. They were sitting with an 11-2 record as they headed into their matchup with Papillion La Vista South. They would lose that game 5-1, which continued to be a common theme throughout their next few games. Millard West would lose four straight and struggled to come up with runs. They only scored nine total runs in those four losses and came out of the rough patch with an 11-6 record and dropped from fourth to tenth in the World Herald Rankings. The Wildcats would need an answer in a big way to get back on track. 

“I think it was just a little hiccup in the road,” senior Corbin Hawkins said. “Baseball is a weird game, and everyone has an off weekend like that, it just happened to be that ours fell in a four game losing streak.”

They had a huge opportunity to bounce back as they faced the then first ranked Millard South Patriots. Junior Jaxson Cahoy pitched a shutout, resulting in a 4-0 Wildcat win. Great pitching would continue for the Wildcats as junior Sam Novotny and senior Kael Dumont both pitched complete games to beat Gretna and Millard South again in the Metro Tournament. West won a close 6-5 game against Elkhorn South and punched their ticket to the Metro Championship. They lost that game to Bellevue West 8-1, but the week proved to be a big one for the Wildcats in getting their momentum back. 

West was 16-8 after a Gretna loss and a close win over Millard North behind another dominating pitching performance from Cahoy. The Wildcats then dominated in the Papio invite, outscoring Gretna, Papillion La Vista and Lincoln Southeast 21-7. The win streak continued as they then took down Omaha Westside on the road 5-2. They then got revenge against Bellevue West, winning 6-2 behind yet another solid outing by Cahoy along with a big bottom of the sixth inning where they scored six runs. Millard West came out of the winning streak 21-8 with only a few games left to play in the season. 

“Those wins just showed that we can beat whatever team gets out in front of us,” Borner said. “Those are two of the top teams in the state, and we were able to put up wins on back to back nights. Those wins gave us the confidence that we could make a run.”

The Millard South Invitational proved to be trouble for the Wildcats. They lost three of the four final games of the regular season, including two losses against Creighton Prep. In the losses, they only came away with one run. The Wildcats know with the postseason quickly approaching, they will need to not only pitch well but put runs on the board. 

“I think we’ve just been playing too tight,” Hawkins said. “We are at the point now where there is a lot more pressure so being a senior, it’s our jobs to keep these guys playing loose and taking every game as just a chance to play.” 

The Wildcats have had several pitchers shine this year. Cahoy has been the leader on the pitching staff with a 1.01 earned run average (ERA) in 34.2 innings pitched with 54 strikeouts and a total of only five runs. Hawkins, Dumont and Novotny all have ERAs below 2.60 which has led to much success from the starters. Junior Dylan Driessen and senior Carter Betts have been solid out of the bullpen, both with ERAs below one and have been the main guys the coaches have called in to relieve. 

On the hitting side, the Wildcats also have multiple players making impacts. Millard West has six players batting over .300 on the year. Borner, along with juniors Rice Whitaker, Avery Moore and Maddux Fleck have all been RBI (runs batted in) machines. Whitaker has 19, Moore has 21, Borner has 22 and Fleck has 17 for the Wildcats which has really helped out the team. Home runs have not been a big stat for this team, but Moore leads the team with three of them. Senior Ty Kalb has also been big at the plate for the Wildcats recently, now batting .244 with 15 RBIs and having multiple clutch hits in big time situations. 

“I thought we played really well this season,” head coach Steven Frey said. “We definitely had some ups and downs, but anytime you can get 21 wins, it doesn’t matter how many losses you have-you still won that many games. We need to do three things headed into districts and that is throw more strikes than balls, not give up any free bases and get runners on base. With our speed, we can put pressure on teams. We simply just have to put up more runs than the other team.”

Millard West now looks ahead to Districts. They have a tall task ahead of them, as Class A is stacked with talent from top to bottom. Millard West will need to be sound in all phases of the game if they want to make a State Championship run. 

The Wildcats will face the winner of Bryan vs Omaha Central on May 8 at Millard West in the first round of the District Tournament. You can watch the game live on Striv. https://striv.tv/channel/millard-west/