The Westminster Christian Academy Wildcats came up short in their bid for a fifth state baseball championship.
St. Francis Borgia defeated Westminster 13-1 in the Class 4 state championship game at Car Shield Stadium in O’Fallon. The Wildcats finished with a 29-7 record.
When practice for this season began, Wildcats coach Dan Petke didn’t know his team would be playing for a state championship. He thought it was possible.
“It didn’t look great day one,” Petke said. “But I knew this team had a lot of talent and character, and knew we could make it to this point. All you can ask for is a chance to play on the last day of the season. We earned that chance, and at that point, anything can happen. “
Petke was happy with the mood of the team entering Final Four.
“The boys were very focused but still loose,” Petke said. “They had a good balance going into the semifinal.”
Westminster cruised to a 10-0 win over Savannah.
“We were expecting a tight game. Braden Berry is a great pitcher who doesn’t give up many runs,” Petke said. “We benefited from a good approach at the plate and some timely at-bats against a good pitching staff.”
The Wildcats scored five runs in the second inning. All were scored with two outs.
“The rally started with a great two-out double from Zach Gross,” Petke said. “Our next four hitters then went single, triple, double, and home run. Those two-out runs really set the tone for the rest of the game.”
Grabbing the big lead was an advantage for Westminster, Petke said.
“It was huge,” Petke said. “(Seth) Moulten was able to settle in on the mound and pitched very well with this lead.”
However, Petke said he thought Savannah would not be crushed by getting down so quickly.
“I don’t think it did,” Petke said. “They continued to throw good pitches and battle at-bats for the entire game.”
Junior Brennan Orf went 3-for-3 with a home run and 5 RBI.
“This was a career game for him and his contribution was extremely important,” Petke said. “He is a leader on this time and it is great to see him dial it in at the plate like he did in this game.”
Senior Nathaniel Sems was 2-for-3 with 2 RBI. Petke said he was happy for his senior to play well.
“Nathaniel has been battling injuries all season,” Petke said. “But when he is 100%, yes, he could hit like this every game. He is a disciplined hitter and can go gap to gap consistently.”
Moulten, a sophomore, turned in a solid pitching performance.
“Nick has been great all year and this game was no exception,” Petke said. “He worked ahead of hitters and kept a really good Savannah team off balance.”
The Wildcats had confidence heading into title game with Borgia.
“(It was) similar to the semifinal game,” Petke said. “A confident focus. We talked about staying in control of the game and sticking to our game plan.
Unfortunately, this one got away from us. ”
It was the biggest loss margin of the season for the Wildcats.
Petke said things did not go Westminster’s way in the championship game.
“Baseball is a funny game that way ,” Petke said. “We made some uncharacteristic mistakes accompanied by some bounces that didn’t go our way. Zach Brasier was throwing a good game but we didn’t do enough to help him out. “
As is the case in every championship game, only one team ends with a win.
The Wildcats know that.
However, it did not ease the sting of having a chance for a state title and not getting it.
“They were disappointed,” Petke said. “These guys have been through a lot this year and felt good about our chances going into the state tournament.
This is part of what made these guys so good, though, not being satisfied with good enough. “
A key thing happened to Petke after the game. It helped him get through the moment.
“After the game, someone came up to me to say thank you. She told me that her son comes to as many games as he can, knows all the players, and aspires to play on the team when he gets to high school,” Petke said. “She continued to explain how they viewed that last game. That even though nothing went our way, no one threw equipment, or complained to the umpires, or turned on each other.
“She said thank you for giving my son that example to follow. That, to us, is more important than any trophy and really sums up the year. This team was a family in good times and bad, and we are very proud of what they accomplished. “
Graduation hit the team as the Wildcats are losing 14 seniors. Two starters in the field and three starting pitchers will return next spring.
“The future is in good hands,” Petke said. “We are returning a few players that logged significant innings this year. We are also returning some really talented players that weren’t able to see the field each day because of the senior class.
“These seniors left their mark on the Westminster legacy and these returning players are ready to pick up where they left off.”