Photo Showcase: Metro Conference Final
* * *
Omaha Westside avenged two previous losses against top-ranked Millard West in a big way Monday night at the Metro Conference tournament.
Sophomore pitcher Christian Hagan scattered six hits and senior third baseman Brett Murray drove in four runs as the third-ranked Warriors won the championship game 8-5. The victory capped a big day for Westside, which also defeated second-ranked Omaha Creighton Prep 8-5 in a semifinal game.
“This is good for us,'' Warriors coach Bob Greco said. “But we cautioned the kids that we want to be the best at the end (of the season).''
Westside (16-4) got off to a rocky start against the 19-2 Wildcats, falling behind 2-0 in the first and 4-1 in the second. But the host Warriors bounced back to score one in the first and four in the bottom of the second to take the lead for good.
“I was a little worried at the beginning because the game started the way our other games against them had gone,'' Greco said. “But Christian hung in there.''
The Wildcats had defeated Westside 7-5 in the season opener March 15 and 9-0 on April 6. But Hagan, who struck out three and walked three, said the Warriors weren't thinking about payback Monday night.
“It's great to beat those guys,'' Hagan said. “But we didn't talk too much about those other losses.''
After the Wildcats had taken a 4-1 lead in the top of the second, Westside scored four to move ahead. Murray had a two-run single, Cal Zagurski added an RBI single and another run came home on a wild pitch.
It was a tough night for the Wildcat pitchers, who issued 10 walks and threw seven wild pitches.
“That's too many freebies,'' Millard West coach Frank Ryan said. “We're probably lucky the game was as close as it was because they stranded a lot of runners.''
Westside extended its lead to 7-4 in the fourth on an RBI single by Jackson Cain and a run-scoring groundout by Murray. The Wildcats got one run back in the top of the fifth on an RBI double by Camden Parks, but the Warriors regained a three-run lead in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Michael Finocchiaro.
Then it was up to the Westside defense to protect that lead in the seventh, and the Warriors did just that. First baseman Will Frei speared a line drive off the bat of Ryan Merrill, and the infield turned a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.
Murray, who made several tough plays at third base, said the wins over Millard West and Prep would give the Warriors a big boost.
“That should give us a lot of confidence,'' he said. “We've got the momentum, but we've still got to keep playing hard.''
Greco said Murray's defense was a key factor Monday night.
“He's been unbelievable over there,'' the coach said. “I think our whole team has the potential to be really good defensively, and that's going to be important for us.”
The Wildcats, who defeated Papillion-La Vista 5-0 in semifinal action earlier Monday, won't have long to ponder their loss against the Warriors. They host one of their biggest rivals, fourth-ranked Millard North, on Tuesday night.
“I told our guys after the game that if they need some extra motivation to play that game, there's something wrong with them,” Ryan said. “We need to bounce back from this one.”
Both Millard West and Westside are entered in the Papillion-La Vista Invitational, to be played this weekend.
Millard West (19-2) .......... 220 001 0—5 6 0
Om. Westside (16-4) .......... 140 201 x—8 8 1
W: Hagan. L: Ethen. 2B: MW, Miller, Parks, Ethen; OW, Murray, Willett.
Om. Westside 8, Om. Creighton Prep 5
The Warriors jumped to a 4-0 lead and never trailed against the Junior Jays. Sophomore Jake Meyers picked up the pitching win.
Om. Westside (15-4) ...... 130 120 1—8 11 2
Om. Creighton Prep (13-2) ...... 000 220 1—5 9 2
W: Meyers. L: Elman. S: Roach. 2B: CP, Wood. HR: CP, Dineen.
Millard West 5, Papillion-LV 0
Connor Miller tossed a three-hitter to pick up the win. The Wildcats struck for three runs in the first and two in the second to defeat the fifth-ranked Monarchs.
Millard West (19-1) ...... 320 000 0—5 10 1
Papillion-LV (13-5) ...... 000 000 0—0 3 1
W: Miller. L: Benes.
Contact the writer: