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Before last Friday’s Class A state baseball final, Millard West coach Steve Frey joked about the significance of the Wildcats’ chance at their first title in program history.

“We could finally have everyone ask when we’re going to win one,” he said with a laugh.

When it came time for the Wildcats to win the title, Frey and his team were all business, however. And while rival Millard South pushed them to 11 innings at Sherman Field, they finally hoisted the Class A state baseball championship trophy after seven runner-up finishes over the past two decades. 

With the trophy safely on the west side of Millard on Monday, Frey’s sincerity about his team and the community around it rang through. 

“We’ve had a lot of former players reach out and say just how proud they are of these kids,” he said. “The community has been so great around us, so it has been such a nice experience for us. It’s always great to make history and even more so when you have the support we’ve had over the years.”

The Wildcats' first title came in dominant fashion as they finished the state tournament with a 5-0 record. In one of the best overall pitching performances in tournament history, the Millard West staff combined to allow just one run over the five tournament games in Lincoln. The group’s performance was the key not only to the Wildcats run, but to one of the most successful regular seasons in program history. 

“Our staff did a great job all season long, and they were a big part of all of our 28 wins,” Frey said. “All pitchers had wins this season and it’s really because they bought into the three-pitch mentality. They can throw three pitches in any count and be successful, and their performance really overshadowed anything else we were doing over the last month of the season.”

Offensively, the Wildcats were led by Texas A&M recruit Max Anderson, who filled up the stat sheet in his junior campaign. Anderson recorded nine home runs, five more than the next closest player in the state, and finished with a .366 batting average.

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His inspiration? The Wildcats that came before him, of course. 

“I was always a big fan of players like Ryan Merrill and Cole Stobbe, so to be mentioned alongside them this season has been a huge honor,” Anderson said. “I’ve just respected so many of the players that came before me, so to bring a championship home to the program is really the biggest honor.”

While Anderson may be one of Stobbe’s biggest fans, he still has his eye on Stobbe's record 24 home runs in his career when he comes back to defend the team’s title in 2020. 

“That personal home run record Cole Stobbe has is definitely a goal,” Anderson chuckled. “Obviously the main goal is to repeat next season and with the talent we have coming back, we feel good about our chances.”

Frey feels similar about his team’s chances next year despite losing some key seniors that helped bring the Wildcats their first title.

“We lose some seniors and they meant so much to this team,” he said. “We bring back our whole infield, though, and a lot of our pitching alongside a lot of talent we have at the JV level. We’re already excited to defend the title.” 

That’s just the thing with state titles, once you get one, you'll never accept any other result, and the Wildcats are more than happy with that.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7431 or scarlson@journalstar.com.

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