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The Catalyst

The Student News Site of Millard West High School

The Catalyst

The Student News Site of Millard West High School

The Catalyst

Batting through the seeds

Varsity baseball team fights through Districts for state tournament berth
Makayla Potter
Pitching against Elkhorn South, senior pitcher Ben Sterbens looks to get an important out. As one of the many closers on this team, Sterbens job is to get the final outs and limit any damage done by the pitcher before him if need be. “My main focus when coming into a hard situation is to keep a low pitch count and to create outs any way I can,” Sterbens said. “As long as we can get the outs we need, we should be good.”

After completing the regular season with a 28-4 record, the Millard West varsity baseball team met the high expectations to start the year, with draft prospects and Division One’rs galore, the Wildcats posted the second best in all of the state and Class A, they hosted the A2 District, and were all but locked into the number two seed in the state tournament.

Their district consisted of five teams: Millard West at the first seed, the Elkhorn South Storm at the second with a 15-13 record, the Omaha Westview Wolverines at the third seed against 19-10 record, the Omaha Burke Bulldogs with a 10-17 record at the four seed, with a play in game against the Columbus Discoverers, at an abysmal 7-18 record. 

With the winner of Columbus and Burke set to play the top ranked Wildcats, it would be a test for the struggling squads. Scoreless through six, the Discoverers rattled off five runs off of six hits in the top of the seventh to beat Burke 5-0. 

This set up a #1 seed v.s. #5 seed matchup, surprisingly a common trend across all districts. After the first inning, neither team scored. Then in the top of the second, the Discoverers plated two runs across. The Wildcats bats still couldn’t connect, and stayed down 2-0 heading into the top of the third.

Then, senior pitcher Josh Mulligan took the mound. It was the momentum switch the team needed. Columbus was held scoreless in the third, but Millard West finally got the bats going. Plating three runs in the bottom of the third, and taking the lead, senior shortstop Tyson Lewis getting a hit and a run, with senior first baseman J.D Moffett being credited with a run batted in.

“We got put into a bit of a bad spot, but I needed to get the job done and get us back into the game,” Mulligan said. “I try to get ready by staying focused because you wont know when you’ll be called upon.”

In the top of the fourth, Mulligan still continued to deal, however allowed one run to come across, tying the game up at three a piece. But the stalemate wouldn’t last long, as right after one more run would come across for the Cats. Mulligan would stay in for one more inning, and posted three strikeouts in his three innings pitched, allowing one run off of three hits. 

Senior pitcher Max Wand was up next in the top of the sixth. He also would not allow a run to come across, and in his lone inning, struck out a batter and allowed just one hit. The runs stayed strong in the bottom of the sixth, with junior outfielder Jake Blackman getting two steals, and senior third baseman Nick Venteicher getting a hit and run across, and Lewis getting one more run home. 

At the top of the seventh, up 6-3 with a spot in the district title game on the line, senior pitcher Ben Sterbens came out of the bullpen to close out the game. He sent every Discoverer home, getting the save and sending Millard West to play the winner of Omaha Westview and Elkhorn South.

Elkhorn South made light work of the Wolverines, winning 10-0 and running, ruling them in six innings.

This set up a rematch of Millard West and Elkhorn South, with the Wildcats leading the season series 2-0, and out scoring the Storm 20-3. On the bump for Millard West was junior pitcher, and future Iowa Hawkeye, Brady Ferguson. For Elkhorn South, senior Tanner Foertsch would lead the Storm. 

Elkhorn South needed the win to keep their season alive, while Millard West would get the number one overall seed with a win.

After the first two innings, only one run came across, as Lewis came home thanks to a Ventiecher RBI. Millard West led 1-0 after two. Ferguson would allow his run to come across in the top of the third, tying it up at 1-1. The tie wouldn’t last long, as right after the Cats would get two more to come across the board, putting Millard West up 3-1.

Ferguson would go one more inning, with a final statline of four innings pitched, three hits, three strikeouts and the one run. 

“I want to be that guy in these big games,” Ferguson said. “The pitching depth this year compared to last is obviously way different, but I want to cement myself as someone that can start in any big game we need.”

The next pitcher to come out of the bullpen would be junior Dylan Swiercek. Elkhorn South continued with Foertsch on the mound. This game slowly became a pitchers duel, as outside of the one run allowed by Ferguson and the three by Foertsch, few runs came across the board, but a combined 14 hits between the two teams. 

However, the seventh inning saw the offense finally explode, but not in a good way. Swiercek allowed two hits, and two runs came across to tie things up at 3-3. Then came in Sterbens, who was able to get two outs, however struggled to get the third and allowed runners to get on base. Venteicher came to finish the job, but let two runs come home. The four run explosion would spell doom to Millard West, as they would fall 5-3 against the Elkhorn South Storm.

“It was a series of unfortunate events for Nick.” senior outfielder Bennett Kloke said. “There was a bad ball call that would have been a strikeout, and a blooper right after. But we will be good next time around.”

However, this disappointing end to districts did not end the high expectation season, and for the 17th straight time, the Millard West Wildcats will go dancing at Tal Anderson Field in the first round of the NSAA Class A State Baseball Playoffs. The first round will be as follows:

  • #1 Lincoln East Spartans vs #8 Millard North Mustangs
  • #2 Millard West Wildcats vs #7 Elkhorn South Storm
  • #3 Bellevue West Thunderbirds vs #6 Creighton Prep Jr. Jays
  • #4 Millard South Patriots vs #5 Lincoln Southwest Silverhawks

Games will either be played at UNO’s Tal Anderson Field or Werner Park.

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About the Contributor
Makayla Potter
Makayla Potter, Staff Reporter
Makayla Potter is a senior at Millard West, this will be her first year on staff as a broadcaster but will be her second year on the Yearbook staff. Makayla was a Sports Editor for the 2022-23 Prowler where she found a passion for photography and learned all about the different types of activities Millard West has to offer. During the summer she spent lots of time with her peers and applied for several 4 year universities where she hopes to study for a career in either Sports and Entertainment Marketing or becoming a part of the journalism world beyond high school. This year Makayla hopes to further her knowledge in all things that media and journalism has to offer.

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