Omaha Creighton Prep baseball coach Pat Mooney says one of the school's best seasons didn't begin with such high hopes early in the spring.
“It seemed like we had so many fresh faces,” he said. “This team really went past what we thought it could do.”
The Junior Jays went on to win the spring varsity title, the summer American Legion championship and the Central Plains Regional title. That qualified PI Midwest (Prep) for the Legion World Series, where the squad finished fourth nationally.
And with a little luck, Mooney's team possibly could have won it all.
The key game for PI Midwest (51-10) came Aug. 18 against New Orleans, an all-boys Jesuit institution much like Prep. PI Midwest led 7-1 but New Orleans roared back to score two in the seventh and five in the eighth to win 8-7 and drop the Nebraska champion into the losers bracket of the double-elimination tournament.
After a win to stay alive Sunday, PI Midwest was eliminated Monday night in a 4-3 setback against Brooklawn, N.J. It was the same squad that ousted Mooney's team in PI Midwest's previous World Series trip in 2001.
Meanwhile, New Orleans went on to defeat Brooklawn 4-0 in the championship Tuesday night. It was the first national title for the school's sponsor, New Orleans Legion Post 125, since 1960.
“I can't say enough about the job our guys did this season,” Mooney said. “We never lost once at home during the spring or summer and just had a year to remember.”
PI Midwest duo earns recognition
PI Midwest's Evan Ryan and Taylor Elman earned special recognition following the conclusion of the Series.
Ryan captured the Louisville Slugger Batting Champion Award after leading all batters in the regional with a .571 average. He also won the Rawlings Big Stick Award and shared the Irvin L. “Click” Cowger RBI Memorial Award by driving in 16 runs.
Elman, along with Matthieu Robert of New Orleans, shared in the Cowger Memorial Award with 16 RBIs. Elman also was the winning pitcher in PI Midwest's tournament opener against California champion Lakewood and drove in five runs in the loss against New Orleans.
Both Ryan and Elman were named to the all-tournament team.
Legion World Series a Dineen family affair
The presence of Cale Dineen on the PI Midwest squad was the latest chapter for the Dineen family at the American Legion World Series.
Tom Dineen coached the Omaha Pepsi (Omaha Ryan High School) squad that finished third in the 1963 Series played in New Hampshire. Tom's sons Ed and Dick played for Nebraska Federal (Omaha Northwest), which finished fifth in the 1981 Series in South Carolina.
Dick Dineen is the father of Cale, who played second base and batted .300 in the Series.
Former Storz coach passes away at 84
Ken Bauermeister, who guided Storz (Omaha North) to the Legion World Series in 1961, died earlier this month in California. He was 84.
The former teacher and coach at North led Storz to a third-place national finish. That team, led by Bob Churchich, Dan “Rook” Taylor, Ken McEwen, Ed Mello and Dave Underwood, got together for a 50-year reunion last year.
Bauermeister coached football, basketball and baseball at North. He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Evelyn, among others.
Services were held Aug. 18 in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Gomez batting mark holds up again
The Legion batting mark set in 1970 by former Anthony's (Ryan High School) player Jerry Gomez will stand for yet another year.
Gomez batted .587 that season and no Legion player has been able to top that since. Cole Gruber of Pinnacle Bank (Papillion-La Vista) was the leading hitter in the state this summer with a .497 average.
In a 2010 World-Herald story, Gomez recounted how he or a family member had checked the final Legion statistics in the newspaper each year since 1970. No player has been able to top the average set by Gomez, who played during the wooden-bat era.
While major league baseball has the “Mendoza Line” — an imaginary mark of batting futility set at .200 — we're ready to establish the Legion's Gomez line for hitting excellence at .587.
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