DICKINSON, N.D. — For the third time in the past three months, the baseball team from Omaha Creighton Prep was able to win twice on the final day to capture a tournament championship.
As a result of Monday’s performance at the American Legion Great Plains Regional, PI Midwest (Prep) will be moving on to the eight-team Legion World Series that begins Friday in Shelby, N.C.
Coach Pat Mooney’s squad advanced by defeating defending national champion Eden Prairie, Minn., 6-1 in the regional final. That victory came after PI Midwest had staved off elimination earlier in the day by defeating host Dickinson, N.D., 7-3.
Prep used the same scenario during the spring varsity season and the summer Legion season to capture state titles. Mooney’s team defeated Lincoln Northeast twice on championship day to pull down the varsity crown and then defeated D.J.’s Dugout (Bellevue West) and KB Building Services (Omaha Westside) in consecutive games to win the state Legion summer crown.
“We’re 6-0 on final days,” Mooney said. “That’s not too bad.”
Riding the momentum of a 25-1 victory over Edina, Minn., on Sunday night, PI Midwest first went to work against Dickinson. That game was a struggle as PI Midwest led by just one in the eighth inning and the host team had the bases loaded with one out.
But reliever McLaine Jonas came on to get out of the jam, preserving the lead for starter Mason Raburn. PI Midwest then tacked on three insurance runs in the top of the ninth to advance to the regional final.
“I can’t say that we went into that final with a whole lot of confidence,” Mooney said. “We were just kind of able to sneak by in that first game.”
Evan Ryan, named the tournament’s MVP, belted a pair of solo home runs to help PI Midwest survive that game against Dickinson.
Facing the team that had defeated it 9-7 on Friday night, the Prep squad jumped to an early lead against the Minnesota state champion. Taylor Elman drove home a run in the first inning and PI Midwest never trailed, making a winner of second-game starter Jonas.
“McLaine finished up for us that first game and he was a real bulldog in the second,” Mooney said. “And we got some timely hitting that kept us ahead the whole way.”
PI Midwest expanded its lead to 3-0 in the third inning on a sacrifice fly by Elman and an RBI single by Scott Huber. Eden Prairie scored a run in the fifth with the help of two infield errors, but PI Midwest added a run in the sixth and two more in the seventh to extend its lead. Jon Hechtner scored one run on a wild pitch and Kevin Connolly brought home two more with a single up the middle.
That proved to be enough offense for Jonas, who struck out six in 6.2 innings. Jeff Albrecht went the rest of the way and got the final out on a 4-6 fielder’s choice.
Now PI Midwest (49-8) moves on to play the winner of the Western Regional in the first game of the Legion World Series at 9:30 a.m. on Friday. It’s the first Series berth for a team from Prep since 2001 and the first for a Nebraska team since the squad from Millard West qualified in 2008.
“Everybody is pretty excited,” Mooney said. “We’re eager to get down there.”
PI Midwest 010 101 013—7 6 2
Dickinson, N.D 110 000 010—3 6 6
W: Raburn. L: Kelly. S: Jonas. HR: PIM, Ryan 2, Emodi.
PI Midwest 102 001 200—6 13 3
Eden Prairie, Minn 000 010 000—1 8 1
W: Jonas. L: Curran. 2B: PIM, Lipari, Hechtner.