After a 6-0 performance last week against rough competition, Omaha Creighton Prep climbs to No. 1 for the first time this season.
The Junior Jays' impressive march included victories against six ranked teams — Lincoln Southwest, Omaha Westside, Millard North, Papillion-La Vista South, Lincoln East and Millard South. Prep finished its week Saturday night with a 4-3 win against the Patriots in the final of the Don Kraft/Millard South Invitational.
“We had a really nice week,” Junior Jays coach Pat Mooney said. “To go 6-0 against the competition we played says a lot about our guys.”
Mooney, in his 12th season as head coach, credited Prep's strong pitching and timely hitting. The Junior Jays pitchers held three of those opponents to three runs or less and the offense averaged 10 runs in the other three wins.
“We were fortunate to have some pitching matchups that were to our advantage,” he said. “And the team has been putting the bat on the ball about as well as we have all season.”
Among Prep's top pitchers has been junior lefty Jeff Albrecht, who shut out the Silver Hawks and got the win in the Don Kraft final against Millard South. Other key hurlers for the Junior Jays have been Taylor Elman, McLaine Jonas, Mason Raburn and reliever Nick Ramsey.
Contributors offensively include four players who have been batting over .400 much of the season — Elman, first baseman Matt Kanger, shortstop Jon Hechtner and outfielder Adam Wilson.
The defense, which has been shaky at times, also performed well last week. Perhaps the biggest play was made by senior catcher Billy Lipari, who threw out a base runner at third in the final inning to help preserve Prep's one-run victory in the Don Kraft championship.
That tournament, which featured seven ranked teams, included three early upsets. The top three squads in the ratings last week — Millard North, Millard West and Westside — all were defeated in Thursday's first round.
Prep won all three of its tourney games by one run to capture the title for the first time since 2009, when Ryan Briggs outdueled Westside's Chris Williams in the final.
“I think this shows how close a lot of these teams are,” Mooney said. “Hopefully we can keep our momentum going.”
Districts ahead: This is the final week of the regular season as district play begins Friday in Class B, Saturday in Class A.
All district finals will be played May 7, with the six district champions and two wild cards in each class advancing to the state tournaments that begin May 12 in Lincoln. Millard West and Prep are the two wild card points leaders in Class A while Norris and Omaha Skutt have the wild-card edge in Class B.
Ratings update: While Prep's 6-0 week launched the Junior Jays to the top spot, a 1-4 week dropped Millard North from No. 1 to No. 9. The Mustangs lost to Papio, Prep, Lincoln Northeast and Westside.
The newcomer to the overall Top 10 this week is Lincoln East, which defeated Millard West and lost to Prep by one run. The 14-12 Spartans also defeated Lincoln Southwest and Millard South earlier this season.
In Class B, Skutt remains on top despite a loss to unranked Ralston. The SkyHawks finish the regular season with two tough games — Monday at Class B No. 2 Lincoln Pius X and Tuesday at home against Class A No. 6 Papio South.
Jumping into the Class B ratings is Omaha Gross, which moves in at No. 6 following wins over ranked foes Elkhorn and Omaha Roncalli. Coach Mike Filipowicz's Cougars have lost 12 games but eight have come against Class A squads.
Statistics needed: Coaches are asked to submit their updated hitting and pitching leaders by Wednesday. They may be faxed to 402-444-1238 or sent by email to mike.patterson Since districts will still be going May 7, the next ratings won't appear in The World-Herald until the middle of next week.
Top games this week:
Class A — Monday: Millard West at Millard South, 4:30 p.m.; Papillion-La Vista at Bellevue East, 4:30; Omaha Creighton Prep at Papillion-La Vista South, 5; Lincoln East at Elkhorn (Legion Field), 5; Lincoln Northeast vs. Lincoln Southwest (at Sherman), 5. Tuesday: Omaha Westside vs. Papillion-La Vista (at Fricke), 5; Elkhorn at Omaha Creighton Prep, 7. Wednesday: Lincoln Southwest at Millard South, 4; Omaha Creighton Prep at Millard West, 5. Thursday: Millard North at Omaha Burke, 4:30.
Class B — Monday: Omaha Gross at Waverly, 5 p.m.; Omaha Skutt vs. Lincoln Pius X (at Den Hartog), 7. Tuesday: Papillion-La Vista South at Omaha Skutt, 5. Thursday: Elkhorn at Elkhorn South, 5.
Contact the writer: