While it was most expected, getting it done was anything but easy.
After winning a pair of American Legion state championships last summer, the Malcolm baseball team rolled into the 2023 spring season favored to win its first ever high school title. A 3-1 win over Roncalli Catholic in the May 19 championship game at Omaha’s Tal Anderson field finished off a wild week, with the Clippers hoisting a new trophy.
In his second appearance of the week-long tournament, Maddox Meyer pitched a complete game gem, allowing just two hits while striking out 10 Crimson Pride batters.
The junior made the final out of the game when he scooped up a slow bouncer off the bat of Josh Chytil and tagged him out halfway up the first base line.
“The last ground ball was kind of anticlimactic,” Meyer said. “I honestly didn’t know whether to throw the ball to first or go tag him. I figured it would be much safer to just tag him out. After that it was all joy. I gave Colt (Reiling) and Hayden (Frank) hugs and the dog pile started.”
The dog pile was the culmination of a four-game tournament sweep in which the Clippers earned an opening round win over Concordia/Brownell-Talbot/OCA before winning back-to-back nail biters against Platteview that sent them to the title bout against Roncalli Catholic.
Reiling was the first Malcolm player to cross the plate in the final game after the senior led off with a first-inning single to center and later scored on a ground ball. Mason Wisnieski drove in the Clippers’ other two runs in the third inning when his was the last of three straight singles.
“After talking to some other coaches and watching film on (Roncalli pitcher Jackson) Urban, we thought he looked very similar to the Platteview pitcher we saw on Monday,” Malcolm coach Zach Wehner said. “That gave the boys confidence going into the game. They did a great job getting the hits they needed at the right times.”
From there, it was all Meyer and his defense. After getting roughed up a little in the fourth inning when a double and an error led to Roncalli’s only run, the ace got a strikeout and a pop out to leave the bases loaded.
“We couldn’t have asked for anything more out of Maddox,” Wehner said. “For the most part, he controlled that game.”
When the fifth inning opened with Meyer hitting the first two Pride batters, Frank came to the mound with some tough talk for his teammate.
“Being completely honest, I said, ‘How about we throw some strikes,’” Frank said. “Maddox said he was trying. Then we laughed, and he knew I was just there to help him relax and try to zone back in.”
Meyer struck out the next batter before Wisnieski made a diving stab on a line drive and fired a strike to Cody Sykes at second to end the inning with a double play.
“After Mason made that play, I knew this game was ours,” Frank said. “We were starting to make plays and prove we were the better overall team.”
Meyer faced six more batters over the final two innings and retired them all, striking out three. Then, the dog pile.
“Holy cow, we did it,” Wehner said about what he was feeling when it was over. “We had reached our final goal of the season.”
Twice in the tournament, Malcolm faced a familiar foe in Platteview. For the third and fourth times this season, the Clippers came out on top against their new conference rival, winning on May 15 in a 3-2 walk off when Frank drove in Elliott Robotham for the game winner. Two days later, Malcolm outlasted the Trojans, 7-6, in what felt like a heavyweight prize fight.
“They’re tough,” Wehner said. “We knew it was going to be a dog fight. Our pitchers contained them for the most part, and the rest of the guys did what they needed to do to get those wins.”
Wisnieski had Malcolm’s hottest bat in the tournament as the sophomore hit .556 with four of his five hits being doubles. The feared slugger drove in nine runs in four games and was walked five times.
The Class C state championship was the first for the NSAA since 1960 when it restructured its classifications for baseball.
“Knowing that when people open the program at future tournaments, Malcolm’s name will be first on the list after the long lay off of Class C, that’s pretty special,” Wehner said. “That’s something these boys can cherish for a lifetime.”
The Clippers finished their championship season with a 25-3 record and will say goodbye to eight seniors.
“This group of seniors is very special,” Wehner said. “They’ve shown everyone what it takes to be winners. They held everyone accountable. They set their goals pretty high when they were younger, and I feel like they have reached most of them.”
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