CENTRAL PLAINS REGIONAL: Omaha PI Midwest wins tournament, dethrones Legion World Series champion Eden PrairieBaseball can be a game of momentum and Omaha (Neb.) PI Midwest sure had some Monday afternoon.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Baseball can be a game of momentum and Omaha (Neb.) PI Midwest sure had some Monday afternoon.
Less than an hour after a ninth-inning surge to a secure a victory over Dickinson in the championship play-in game, the Blue Jays got off to a good start and didn’t stop as they booked their plane tickets to Shelby, N.C., and the American Legion World Series.
The Nebraska state champions built a three-run lead after three innings and rode the arms of right-handed starter McLaine Jonas and lefty reliever Jeff Albrecht to a 6-1 victory over two-time region champion and defending Legion World Series champion Eden Prairie, Minn., 6-1 on Astoria Field at Southside Ballpark.
“We scored late against Dickinson and we just kept ‘er going,” Omaha head coach Pat Mooney said. “Scoring right away in the game, that first inning, really helped us. It really helped us.”
A three-run ninth inning helped the Blue Jays to a 7-3 victory over the Cinderella host team in early game.
Jonas, who pitched the last 1 2/3 innings against Dickinson, started against Eden Prairie and pitched 6 2/3 solid innings, giving up just four hits and no earned runs while striking out six and walking three.
“I got in a groove there,” Jonas said. “Even though we had a 45-minute break, it was good to flow into the second game. I had all my stuff working.”
While Omaha (48-8) was grooving, Eden Prairie was stiff from the outset.
Its only run came in the fifth inning after Omaha committed two errors to let Derek Soderberg reach first base and then move to third. He scored on a passed ball.
Even when the defending champs did get breaks, they couldn’t find ways to score, leaving two runners on base in the first, seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
“We had a chance right in that first inning to get the first two guys in,” Eden Prairie head coach Scott Hackett said. “We had to get a hard ground ball. We couldn’t capitalize, at that point, with runners in scoring position.”
Taylor Elman didn’t record a hit but drove in Omaha’s first two runs, one on a groundout in the first and another on a sacrifice fly in the third.
Scott Huber had a RBI single in the third. In the sixth, Jon Hechtner stole third on a hit-and-run play and then came home on a wild pitch by Dan Loats. Kevin Connolly crushed a two-run single up the middle in the seventh to wrap up Omaha’s scoring.
Evan Ryan, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, was 3-for-5 with two runs scored. Hechtner was 3-for-4 with two runs and Connolly and Billy Lipari were each 2-for-4.
“We really came together as a team and everybody really chipped in,” said Connolly, a center fielder headed to Notre Dame. “Our hitters, pitchers, everybody played to the best of their ability. That’s what it takes to make it to a World Series.”
The win completed Omaha’s surge out of the consolation round after a 9-7 loss to Eden Prairie on Friday night.
Eden Prairie (33-13) had won the 2010 and 2011 Central Plains Regional Tournaments with a combined 11-1 record but returned only five players — two of them key contributors — from last season’s World Series-winning team. It hadn’t lost in Dickinson before falling to the Roughriders 6-5 in 10 innings on Sunday night.
Eden Prairie used four pitchers, with starter Kent Curran going three innings and getting the loss. Its lineup was only able to scatter eight hits.
Reliever Luke Lind, who is also a 6-foot-5, 225-pound first baseman and one of the team’s best hitters, was lost for the game in the fourth inning when he covered home plate on his own wild pitch and stopped Lipari from scoring. Lind took Lipari’s cleats to his left leg and had to go to the hospital and get stitches.
“To get back to this point and be one of the final 16 teams in the nation is a huge accomplishment for these guys,” Hackett said. “Five guys returned from last year. Really only one or two who played a lot in our playoff run. It was pretty much a brand-new group and they did a great job. I’m proud of them.”
Omaha, which also won the Nebraska Class A high school state title as Creighton Prep in the spring, faces the winner of the Western Regional at 9:30 a.m. EDT on Friday. That Regional’s winner won’t be determined until Tuesday morning.
Jonas said the Blue Jays are ready to represent against the rest of the nation this weekend.
“Everybody on this team can play baseball,” he said. “That’s really kind of how we got here. It’s not necessarily playing for the individuals, but playing for the school, the state.”
Omaha 102 001 200 — 6 13 3
EP 000 010 000 — 1 8 1
Kent Curran, Luke Lind (4), Dan Loats (4), Cameron Mingo (9) and Danny Halloran. McLaine Jonas, Jeff Albrecht (7) and Billy Lipari. W–Jonas. L–Curran. HR–None.
Highlights: O, Jonas 6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 6 K, 3 BB; Albrecht 2.2 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 K, 0 BB; Jon Hechtner 3-for-4, 2 R, SB; Evan Ryan 3-for-5, 2 R; Taylor Elman 0-for-3, 2 RBI, R; T.J. Wood 1-for-4, SB; Kevin Connolly 2-for-4, 2 RBI, R, 2 SB; Scott Huber 1-for-4, RBI; Zach Garrett 1-for-4; Lipari 2-for-4. EP, Curran 3 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 K, 2 BB; Logan Borg 1-for-4; Michael Blauert 1-for-5; Jordan Smith 2-for-4; B Brett Guba 1-for-3; Derek Soderberg 1-for-4, R.
Records: EP 33-13, Omaha 48-8.