On a chilly and rainy evening, the Millard West baseball team hosted the Papillion-LaVista Monarchs.
Senior Dylan Driessen started on the bump for the Wildcats. He made quick work of the first two Monarch hitters, setting them both down via strikeout. After a walk and a double, Driessen finished the inning with another strikeout, stranding runners on second and third.
Senior Avery Moore led off the bottom of the first for the Cats with a walk. He advanced to second, on a groundout from senior Maddux Fleck, and to third on a wild pitch. Avery Moore then scored on an error which also allowed senior Drew Borner to reach base safely. Borner later scored on a single from junior Peyton Moore, putting the Wildcats up 2-0. They threatened to score again on another Monarch error, but Peyton Moore was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
Another strong inning from Driessen, featuring two more strikeouts, brought the Wildcats back up to the plate in the bottom of the second. A one-out single from junior Caleb Lanphear started the Cats offense. Lanphear’s courtesy runner — sophomore Jackson Williams — stole second and advanced to third on a bunt from senior AJ Tauber.
“Bunting has really always been a part of my game,” Tauber said. “I just like to make the infield uncomfortable and make them field the ball. I like to use my speed to my advantage as much as possible and bunting allows me to do so. The main key is placement.”
Williams then scored on a dropped third strike that also allowed Avery Moore to reach. An RBI double from Fleck scored Avery Moore putting the Wildcats up 4-0. The inning ended on a strikeout by Borner, but the damage was done.
In his third and final inning of work, Driessen faced just three batters. A groundout and two strikeouts later, he ended his night with seven strikeouts, two hits and no runs allowed. For the first time, the Wildcats offense was quiet in the third.
Junior Drew Deremer relieved Driessen in the fourth, retiring the first three Papillion batters in order. The Cats couldn’t get anything going in the bottom half, sending the game to the fifth inning, still up 4-0.
Deremer barely made it out of the fifth unscathed. After back-to-back singles to lead off the inning and a sacrifice bunt, the Monarchs had runners on second and third with just one out. A clutch strikeout gave Deremer some breathing room. After an eight pitch battle, he finally plunked senior Nick Chanez, loading the bases. A line drive to right field looked like it was going to put the Monarchs on the board, but senior Devin Jones made a diving catch to end the inning.
The Cats offense woke back up in the bottom of the fifth when Borner reached base on a hit-by-pitch. Borner then stole second and advanced to third on a flyout from senior Rice Whitaker. The Monarchs sophomore pitcher Hunter Jones picked up his second HBP of the inning, nailing Peyton Moore. A wild pitch scored Borner and advanced Peyton Moore to third. He then scored when catcher Zak Reyes overthrew Hunter Jones.
“Base running is pretty key to our offense,” Borner said. “We steal a lot of bases and it creates a lot of offensive opportunities.”
Devin Jones became Hunter Jones’s third HBP victim of the inning, before Hunter Jones collapsed to the ground clutching his throwing arm during the next at-bat. He exited the game, still clutching his shoulder, and was replaced by sophomore Sebastian Noto who struck out Lanphear to end the inning.
Deremer worked around a two-out single in the sixth to keep the score 6-0. Millard West picked up two more insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth when Tauber and Fleck scored on two different passed balls.
The Wildcat’s closer, senior Mason Koch, came in in the seventh and mowed down the first two Monarchs on back-to-back strikeouts. Papillion managed a walk and an infield single before another strikeout from Koch ended the game.
This was the third straight win for the Wildcats, improving their record to 3-0. All three wins have been by large margins, with the 8-0 win against Papillion being the closest.
“We’ve had a lot of fun the last three games,” Borner said. “But, we know the competition is only going to get better so we need to do our best to stay focused and continue to get better while having fun.”
Both their March 22 and March 23 games (against Burke and Bellevue East) were rained out. They will play again on March 25 against Mill Valley and Blue Valley.