The 2021 spring season has started, and varsity baseball is back in Nebraska. After losing last season due to Covid-19, the Westside varsity baseball team was ready to make a comeback. Head coach Otis Seals was ready to see the team come together after a long and hard-working pre-season.
“We’ve gotten a lot of work done [during the offseason.] Obviously [we] have a lot of work still to do, but we’ve gotten some good preparation,” he said. “We didn’t have a season last year, so the kids that would’ve come up and played varsity last year either didn’t get a chance or the only season they got was over the summer. This is some of their first opportunities to play together, so it’ll be interesting to see how they coalesce together as the season goes on.”
The team started the season on Thursday with a game at home against Millard South. The Patriots, ranked eighth above the ninth ranked Warriors, were able to take the lead early on and keep the Warriors from scoring until the sixth inning. Westside lost the game 3-1, but coach Seals was not disappointed with the team’s effort.
“I wasn’t displeased with our effort and our energy. I thought we played fairly well. We just talked about the good things we did and building off that and putting up 13 runs was a nice response,” he said following the team’s next game at Burke.
In that Friday night game, the Warriors dominated offensively with a lead-off triple from Cole Payton to get the momentum going. They scored four runs in the top of the first inning, but Burke was not going down without a fight. The two teams scored back and forth through the fourth inning, while Westside bounced between pitchers. Finally, Simon Stover stepped up to the mound, Westside’s fourth pitcher of the night. Stover was able to almost completely shut out Burke for the last three innings, only allowing one run while Westside continued their offensive momentum and scored eight runs. The game ended with Westside winning 13-6. While Seals was excited about the offensive showing, he wanted to see more on the defensive side of the game.
“Really the only bright spot tonight was our offense. I thought defensively we played bad and we pitched poorly with the exception of Simon. Without our offense it would’ve been a different game.” he said.
Simon Stover, was just excited to be back on the field with the team and is confident they’ll be a tough opponent this season.
“We just need to get our timing back and we’ll be a hard team to beat,” Stover said.
Within twelve hours of the game against Burke, the team was on their home field once again, this time for a double header. They played first against Lincoln Northeast and then later against Lincoln Southwest. The Warriors were able to dominate the first game with an offensive showing similar to the previous night against Burke, but they faced a harder team in the top-ten ranked Silver Hawks of Lincoln Southwest. Again, the biggest question in the game against Lincoln Southwest was pitching. Coach Seals noted that pitching was going to continue to develop throughout the season until the team finds a rotation that works.
“We’re going to continue to see what we have on the mound. Pitching is kind of our big question mark so far, and [we’re] seeing what we’ve got in some guys and seeing some young guys step up,” Seals said.
The Silver Hawks of Lincoln Southwest got the lead in the first inning, but the Warriors didn’t let up and were ahead 3-2 going into the seventh inning. Lincoln Southwest scored in the top of the seventh, tying the game and putting the pressure on for the Warriors offense who had already made a great showing throughout the weekend. It was Aidan Jackson with the walk-off triple to bring in Kutty George that allowed the Warriors to win the game. Following the game, Jackson was proud of the team’s fight, even without one of their better players.
“[It was a] really good right without one of our best players, Cole Payton. [It was] just a team effort, lot’s of adversity and I’m really proud of the guys,” he said.
The team will start off week two of the season on Wednesday, going head-to-head with Elkhorn. Jackson and the team are looking to build off their current momentum and come out on top.
“We’ve got a tough opponent coming up in Elkhorn,” said Jackson. “[We’re] just building off this momentum and we should be good.