Westminster baseball team focuses on winning state championship


Photo credit Clyde Click

Recently, the Westminster varsity baseball team has been preparing for the playoffs, with the hope of ultimately winning a state championship. Past regional games have bolstered the team’s success in both raising morale and securing home-field advantage for playoff games. After a hot 8-0 start in region, the Cats had already clinched a spot in the playoffs. The second half of region play has been neck-and-neck, as there is a lot of talent among GAC, Redan, Sandy Creek, and of course, Westminster.

“The first goal is always to win the region and then the second goal is to secure home-field advantage at least for the first round in the state playoffs,” said head coach Chad Laney. “Unfortunately, we lost to Sandy Creek on April 16 and to GAC on April 19, so we were behind the eight ball a little bit as far as the opportunity to host.”

These losses overshadowed a few big wins the team had over region team Redan and rival Lovett on Westminster’s home field. With the help of Rico, an alien who is the team mascot, the Cats were able to come away with two huge walk-off wins.

“We have definitely had some really special wins at home and some big games,” said Laney. “[The team] followed the same script a little bit to win both the Redan game, right before Easter, and then the Lovett game right after Easter. We were trailing going into the final at bat and ended up scoring. In the Redan game, we forced extra innings, and then we won in the next inning with a base hit. At Lovett, we won in the bottom of the seventh with a double down the right field line when Nick O’Reilly and Wyatt Stevenson came around to score.”

Rushing the field from the dugout after those two huge games was a feeling like no other for the team. After those two big wins, the team carried their momentum into their game against another region team, Sandy Creek. 

“A lot of excitement ensued,” said Laney. “Following those wins, we had a really big win against Sandy Creek at home, which we were able to grab lead in with a couple of innings.”

The games gave the players some much needed motivation from the shortened schedule this year, and it also contributed to securing home field for the playoffs. Westminster’s region this year is highly competitive, as the skill level between the top four teams is similar.

 “The Redan and Sandy Creek wins were equally important because they were region wins,” said Laney. “The top teams in the region are so strong that there’s just no margin for error and any win is an accomplishment.”

A major part of the team’s success has come from the multitude of players that stepped up to support the team. Unlike many other sports where a win can be the result of a single player’s talent, baseball is truly a team game. A team must coalesce and play together in order to be successful.

“Our team is clearly led by the exceptional seniors Wyatt Stevenson, Nick O’Reilly, and Jayson Longacre,” said Laney. “We have also had huge contributions from [senior] Ben Montag, [junior] Nick Westenfelder, [junior] Robert Clarke, and [sophomore] Ryan Carr. We’ve been really proud of the development and the performance of all the guys that are out there playing.”

The contributions from the younger players have also been especially impressive this year. The baseball team will be left in good hands after the seniors leave this year, as the sophomore and junior players have made tremendous progress since last season.

“I’d say one of the big players we’ve had is Zach Hanson,” said senior Ben Montag. “He has stepped up as a sophomore and has been great at second base. Nick Westenfelder has also been great at third base; he has really stepped up in the middle of our lineup.”

Unfortunately, the Wildcats lost against GAC at home, and their new playoff slate may be more difficult than expected. Regardless of how the playoffs turn out, this season will have been a memorable one.

“It’s a unique season in that there’s just an overriding appreciation of getting to play after the events of the past year,” said Laney. “We haven’t played as many games due to COVID-19 restrictions, so it took us a little while longer to build up stamina and create team identity. Other than that, it’s been a great team to coach, and the chemistry has been very strong.”

Overcoming the hurdle of the pandemic made the accomplishments of the team all the more significant. The wins against Redan, Lovett, and Sandy Creek are moments that the players will never forget.