LINCOLN — Millard West continued its winning run Wednesday at the Class A state baseball tournament.
As a result, the Wildcats are one victory away from repeating as state champions.
Millard West defeated Lincoln East 5-3 to remain the only unbeaten team at the double-elimination tourney. The Wildcats advance to the 4 p.m. championship game Thursday at Haymarket Park.
A loss in that game, which would be Millard West's first, would force a second game at 7 p.m. to determine the champion.
The Wildcats won the title in 2019 but the pandemic canceled the 2020 season. Two years removed from the school's first title after seven runner-up finishes, Millard West coach Steve Frey downplays the defending champion tag.
"We're not really thinking about that," he said. "We just want to go out and play our best from the first pitch."
The Spartans, who needed to win to stay alive in the tourney, grabbed the early lead with one run in the second and two in the third. The Wildcats battled back with the help of sophomore Caleb Lanphear, who pitched 4⅓ innings of one-hit relief.
"Credit to Caleb for keeping us in the game," Frey said. "He settled in and did a really nice job."
The Wildcats tied it in the fourth with the help of a two-run single by No. 9 batter Peyton Moore.
"He had that seeing-eye ground ball that was huge," Frey said. "That got us back in the game."
Millard West went ahead to stay in the sixth when Cade Owens delivered a two-run single to left.
"If not for my teammates getting on base, that never would have happened," Owens said. "I went up there to do a job."
East threatened in the seventh, putting two runners on with two out. Creighton recruit Mason Koch came on to finish off the win, striking out Grant Springer.
The Spartans were playing without head coach Mychal Lanik, who was ejected from an earlier tourney game for arguing a balk call.
"I know it was killing him not being here," assistant Kirby Killion said. "But I love the fight our team has. They never quit."
The Spartans finish the season 23-10.
Lincoln East (23-10)..........012 000 0—3 4 1
Millard West (28-11).........000 302 x—5 5 1
W: Lanphear. L: Lentell. S: Koch. 2B: LE, Erikson, Welch; MW, Borner.