Omaha Westside on to Series
FARGO — Omaha Westside started the American Legion Division I Central Plains Regional with a hard-luck loss, but Monday it ended its stay in Fargo with a win and a championship.
Westside (56-5) battled back in the double-elimination baseball tournament to post a 5-3 win over St. Cloud in the title game at Jack Williams Stadium.
“It wasn’t easy losing that tough one at the start of the tournament, but we knew we could do it,” said Westside starting pitcher Matt Waldron, who picked up the victory and struck out nine. “Our hitting got hot at the end of the tournament, and it was nice to know I could rely on that as a pitcher.”
Westside advances to the American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C., where it will play the winner of the Mid-South Regional at 5 p.m. Thursday.
After a 1-0 loss to Bismarck on Thursday, Westside rattled off five straight wins to claim its first regional title since 2000.
“It went the way we thought it would,” Westside head coach Bob Greco said. “St. Cloud plays the game really hard and they don’t make it easy. Just because we had a good pitcher going didn’t mean we were overly confident. St. Cloud was a hard team to beat.”
Westside was the runner-up in the Central Plains Regional a year ago and needed to beat St. Cloud twice in order to get to North Carolina. Westside defeated St. Cloud 16-6 on Sunday night.
Westside defeated in-state rival Omaha PI Midwest 3-0 in a championship play-in game earlier Monday getting a complete-game, three-hit shutout from right-hander Jake Meyers, who was named tournament MVP.
St. Cloud (27-6) jumped out early scoring a run in the bottom of the first inning when Brady Yoerg led off with a single and came around to score on an RBI single off the bat of Steven Neutzling.
Westside answered with two runs in the second inning, getting an RBI single from Will Patterson, and then added another run in the third inning, scoring on an error.
St. Cloud made it 3-2 in the fourth, but Westside extended its lead in the ninth, getting a two-run home run from center fielder Devin Stueck.
The Chutes didn’t go down quietly in the bottom the ninth. St. Cloud loaded the bases and scored one run with two outs when Tom Imholte was hit by Waldron brining in Neutzling.
Waldron escaped the jam by getting a groundout.
“I had faced all their hitters a few times by then and I just kept trying to make my pitches,” Waldron said. “They are a good-hitting team, and we couldn’t say it was easy there at the end.”
Neutzling was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and RBI.
“(Westside) is a great team,” Neutzling said. “Coming into the Legion season, it was all about having fun with it. And if you would have told me back at the start of the season that we would be playing in this game, I would have called you crazy. We are such a tight-knit group, so to lose the game is tough. Our comeback came up just a little short.”
Omaha 5, St. Cloud 3
Omaha 021 000 002 — 5 14 1
St. Cloud 100 100 001 — 3 12 1
Ma. Waldron and Nielsen. Theisen, Austing (6) and Imholte. W–Ma. Waldron. L–Theisen. HR–OW, Stueck.