Westminster Christian Academy played the Savannah Savages once before and it turned out well for the Wildcats.
Westminster scored a 6-3 win over Savannah when it won the Class 3 state championship in 2011.
The two teams meet again at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at CarShield Field in O’Fallon in a Class 4 semifinal game. Westminster is 28-6. Savannah is 25-1.
This will be Westminster’s second trip to Final Four in three years.
“This is a big moment for these seniors,” Westminster coach Dan Petke said. “Several of them were on the team that went to the Final Four in 2017. They have worked extremely hard and I am happy for them that we were able to make it back this season.”
In that trip in 2017, the Wildcats finished third 2 years ago. After a tough 2-1 loss in the semifinals to Lutheran South, the Wildcats romped to a 19-4 win over Pleasant Hill to claim third place.
“We have three players back from that team,” Petke said. “The three of them, as well as myself, did believe that we could make it back there this year. We had a slow start to the season, but once we settled in, the guys began to have a lot of confidence in what we are able to do as a team.”
Petke said the Savages are a good team.
“Savannah has had a really strong year,” Petke said. “They have only lost one game and have defeated some good teams to get to this point in the playoffs. We are excited to see another good baseball team on Thursday.”
The Wildcats starting pitcher will be sophomore Nick Moten. He is 8-2 on the season with a 2.22 ERA.
“He has pitched well for us and gone deep into the game in most of his starts,” Petke said. “His teammates and the coaching staff have a lot of confidence when Nick is on the mound.”
The Wildcats must do several things, Petke said, to get to the championship game. The winner will face the winner of St. Francis Borgia and Jefferson City Helias at 1:30 p.m. Friday. The two losers will play at 11 a.m. Friday.
“We will have to put a full seven innings together to have success against Savannah,” Petke said. “We will look to get the bats going early and play solid defense.”
Westminster reached the title game by winning its sectional and quarterfinal games.
In the sectional against Jennings, the Wildcats won 12-0.
“Nick Moten and Brennan Orf pitched in the Jennings game,” Petke said. “They were both solid and key to getting the sectional win.”
In the quarterfinal, Westminster faced St. Dominic. The Wildcats beat St. Dominic in a regular season game last year 8-3. Prior to that, Westminster met in the quarterfinal round back-to-back years in 2007 and 2008. Westminster won in 2007 and St. Dominic in 2008 when they went on to win state.
“The guys were very excited for this game,” Petke said. “We knew that St. Dominic was a good team and the guys were looking forward to a good game.”
Westminster scored a 14-3 victory.
“The score is slightly deceiving because this was a hard fought game by both sides,” Petke said. “We were able to put a couple big innings to get some separation late in the game, but Kyle Fowler pitched a great game for St. Dominic and battled all game.
“This truly was a team effort. Every player in the lineup scored a run. Zach Brasier and Nick Moten also teamed up on the mound to limit a solid St. Dominic lineup to three runs.”
The win meant Westminster was back in the hunt for another state championship. The Wildcats have four overall and won them in their streak of title wins from 2011 through 2014.
“I was very happy for our 14 seniors,” Petke said. “With all the work they have put in over their four years here, I was glad they were able to make it to the Final Four in their senior season. We were quickly moving on, though, to start preparation for Savannah.
“These guys are very appreciative of the players who have come before them. They do not take lightly the tradition that has been built over the years. And they are glad to be able to leave their mark on Westminster baseball.”
Petke said he believes the Wildcats will have plenty of support in the Final Four.
“We would like to thank all of the families, former players, and members of the Westminster community for their support this year,” Petke said. “We have been blessed with a lot of support this season and expect Thursday to be no different.”