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Millard West advances to Metro baseball final; Other semifinal postponed to Saturday

By Mike Patterson, 04/16/21, 7:45PM CDT


Reliever Mason Koch pitched to one batter Friday and got the out he needed.

As a result, Millard West will be moving on to the Metro Conference baseball tournament final.

Koch escaped a bases-loaded jam by getting the final batter to ground out as the Wildcats defeated Elkhorn South 6-5 in a semifinal victory at Bellevue West. Millard West will play for the championship Saturday at 6 p.m. at UNO’s Tal Anderson Field.

The Wildcats will have to wait to see who they’ll be playing. The second semifinal between the host Thunderbirds and Papillion-La Vista was postponed because of threatening weather and will be played Saturday at noon.

The Storm came close to tying the game with two out in the seventh on a walk, a hit batsman and a single by Eli Small. Millard West coach Steve Frey then called on Koch to get the last out.

“It was a little bit stressful,” Koch said. “It was kind of fun but I wouldn’t want to do it all the time.”

The junior right-hander got Landon Goeser to bounce into a 4-6 forceout to end the game.

“Mason is a very talented pitcher,” Frey said. “He’s a confident kid and wanted to be in there.”

Elkhorn South went ahead with two runs in the first but the Wildcats struck back with two in the bottom of the inning. The Storm reclaimed the lead in the third on Cole Goeser’s two-run single and made it 5-2 in the fourth when Jayson Bertsch belted an RBI double.

Millard West took the lead for good with a four-run fourth. Corbin Hawkins and Rice Whitaker had RBIs and Maddux Fleck followed with a two-run single to center.

“I was looking first-pitch fastball and I jumped on it,” Fleck said.

Reliever Drew Deremer protected the lead by pitching two scoreless innings. He ran into trouble in the seventh, which led to Koch’s appearance for the last batter.

“They’re one of the best hitting teams in the state,” Frey said. “I thought our pitchers did a nice job and our team showed a lot of grit to fight back.”

The Wildcats also played solid defense, committing only one first-inning error. Catcher Tyler Merkel threw out two baserunners, another runner was tagged out at home and center fielder Avery Moore made a nice catch of a long drive in the seventh inning.

Storm coach Brandon Dahl said it was a good game that came down to that final out.

“Their reliever came in and shut the door,” he said. “It was nice to get this far in the tournament and I feel like we’re turning the corner.”

Fleck, who had three hits for Millard West, said he was eager to play for the title on UNO’s new field.

“We’re all looking forward to that experience,” he said. “That should be a lot of fun.”