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The Student News Site of Millard West High School

The Catalyst

The Student News Site of Millard West High School

The Catalyst

The Student News Site of Millard West High School

The Catalyst

State or bust

A preview of Wildcat Baseball
Logan Moseley
Warming up during a pitching change, then junior Nick Venteicher gets ready to close against the Millard North Mustangs. This wasn’t a new situation for the junior, as Venteicher had five saves on the year and looks for more this year. “I put a lot of time this off season into the weight room,” Venteicher said. “We have a lot of returnees and newcomers this season look great. I’m excited because we play the best schedule in the state. It’s gonna be a fun ride and we got some revenge to get this season.”

The past four state baseball championships have had one theme in common; green, black and white. This year, the Wildcat baseball team looks to keep that trend going in the year 2024. With key starters leaving for college, many questions are left unanswered as they get ready for opening day. 

The big one is the pitching staff. Last year, ace Drew Deremer finished his storied prep career with a 106 pitch outing in the state championship. The future Iowa Hawkeye was huge throughout the year, posting a 1.48 earned run average. The next in line was Caleb Lanphear, who’s nine starts saw a 2.89 ERA with a 3-2 record, compared to Deremer’s 7-0 record with a save under his belt as well.

Millard West does have arms to turn to throughout the bullpen, but a clear ace isn’t as easy as years past. A closer, on the other hand, should be a “pick your poison,” for lack of a better phrase. Two seniors, future Creighton Bluejay Nick Venteicher and Northeast Community College signee Ben Sterbens, led the team in ERA with a 0.89 and five saves from Ventiecher and a 0.33 and three wins from Sterbens.

“I’m expecting to only pitch late in games and to be one of our closers,” Sterbens said. “I feel like we have a good chance to win it all this year.  We played Lincoln East a few times last year, but I feel ready to face them and feel like we can beat them.”

We can also see junior, and future Hawkeye, Brady Ferguson find his way not only on the mound, but also in the batting order. The junior has been on varsity since his freshman year, and for good reason. While his sophomore year he saw limited action due to a shoulder injury, the power hitter/pitcher hit for an even .200 on the season, and was in the lineup for the first quarter of the season before suffering his injury. 

“I hurt my throwing shoulder last year during training and just over use, so I took a bit of a back seat role until the end of the season,” Ferguson said. “I’m excited. I mean, we have a really good team and we have another shot at a state title. I want to do everything I can to help get there.”

The dugout will look a bit different as well, and it’s not just the paint in the back. Assistant coach Bob Hlavac has moved on from the program, and has taken the reins of the Millard North Mustangs. Hlavac was not only an emotional leader in the dugout, but a mentor as well. 

Junior Trent Helms has taken over the student manager role, as he underwent Tommy John surgery. The lefty had high expectations after a strong sophomore year, having the second most appearances on the team, and a 2-1 record with a 2.66 ERA.

“It’s definitely going to be a learning year for me,” Helms said. “I’m for sure going to try and get into the minds of the hitter. I’ll also be submitting the lineup cards for Frey, so it might not be much, but at least I’ll be helping the team.”

But the strong point of this team is the infield. Three out of the four positions will be filled by D-1 recruits: Ventchier at third, as we saw for most of the season last year, future Arkansas Razorback Tyson Lewis turning players at shortstop, and senior transfer Michael Valdivia at second, who will be going to Tulane after the end of the year. The Wildcat infield was strong last year, but second base was in constant rotation of players like now senior Kaden Struck, and now juniors Dylan Swiercek and Ripken Fleck. Fleck, however, has moved on to the Mustangs program, reuniting with Hlavac.

The outfield has speed, speed, and some more speed. Talented senior two-sport athlete and North Dakota State Bison signee Jackson Williams bring speed and experience in center field. Other outfielders include Sterbens and junior Landon Horst, but it will take time to iron out the starting lineup on the green.

The Wildcats will begin their championship quest Thursday, Mar. 14 against the Elkhorn South Storm, and their home-opener the following day as they host the Creighton Prep Jr. Jays. Both games will be played at 4:30 p.m.

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About the Contributor
Logan Moseley, Staff Reporter
This is Logan’s senior year and 4th year on staff. Last year he was the MWHS Wildcat News Broadcast Editor In Chief, Striv Executive Producer and one of the piloting students of the “High School Radio Project.” Moseley won 1st place in the NSAA Class A News Broadcast category, and placed in the Broadcast Feature category as well. Moseley worked with the President of the Nebraska Broadcasters Association, Jim Timm, on the HSRP, worked for the Corn Belt baseball summer league live streaming service, and was a PA for Millard North Legion Baseball. Moseley is a fan of the Los Angeles Rams and Nebraska Cornhuskers.

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