Weiss, Wildcat baseball win Metro League crown
As the third out was recorded and the sixth straight Metro League title was clinched, the Westview baseball team's bench brought out a full bucket of water with the intent of dousing its triumphant pitcher Willie Weiss, only to whiff completely.
The Wildcats tried to tackle their ace for a celebratory dog pile, but Weiss wouldn't go to the ground. Fittingly, as he was for seven innings against Jesuit, Weiss was uninhibited. And on an afternoon when everything seemed to go Westview's way, the 'Cats failed efforts to ruffle their workhorse were about the only things that went awry.
With Weiss shoving on the mound and the offense pledging the needed run support, Westview beat Jesuit 3-0 to not just sweep the Crusaders but to secure its sixth straight Metro title on Monday.
A senior-laden squad that was the conference's prohibitive favorite coming into the season, Westview more than lived up to the billing. With one series remaining against Glencoe, the Wildcats (21-2, 14-0) have a shot at going undefeated in conference play, a rarefied feat in a league known for its depth of quality programs.
"It feels really good to know we're the senior class that carries on that legacy and keeps the streak alive," Westview senior third baseman Mante Woods said. "We're on a roll this year and when we're at our best there are very few teams that can beat us or compete with us. We all love each other and we're all there to support each other. One person gets in a fight, we're all brawling. Our team chemistry is always there."
Appropriately, Westview had to go through Jesuit — the Wildcats' top rival — to capture yet another Metro banner. The task didn't come easy. Both teams came into this series ranked in the Class 6A power rankings' top-three. Jesuit battled on Friday and came ready to duke it out again on Monday with its loud dugout and constant chirping. Senior pitcher Daniel Young threw a complete game and allowed just two earned runs against a lineup that's the third-highest scoring unit in 6A, hoping to salvage a series split.
"I don't have 'The Show' (velocity) like Weiss, but my pitching coach (Jeff Jensen) and I plotted out how we wanted to go after each hitter before the game and stuck to the game plan," Young said.
And as history has proven, regular season success doesn't always ensure state titles. In 2016, when Jesuit won its first state crown in school history, the Crusaders were swept by Westview during the regular season but beat the Wildcats in the semis, thanks in large part to Young's older brother, Matt, who had the go-ahead RBI. At No. 4 in the 6A power rankings, Jesuit could conceivably face Westview again in the semis, should each team advance that far. Depending on how Westview sets its playoff rotation, the Crusaders might not have to face Weiss, which would help Jesuit's cause down the road.
"I think we just saw the No. 1 team in the state, but I think we can beat them in the end," Young said. "I don't think it's over yet. We just need more disciplined approaches at the plate overall and honestly, that's it. We made a couple of mental errors in the field and the dugout, but overall we're in good shape."
Yet Weiss, the right-handed workhorse who's developed a big-game reputation, threw a no-hitter buoyed by 12 strikeouts. Weiss is undoubtedly the Metro Pitcher of the Year and could very well double up as the Metro Player of the Year for his work at shortstop. Along the lines of ex-Westview great Kenyon Yovan, Weiss is the sort who can carry the Cats far into the 6A postseason field.
"He's probably the best pitcher in the state in my opinion," Woods said. "When he's on, there's nobody in the state who can touch him. And when it's all said and done I think he's going to go down as one of the greatest pitchers in Westview history and maybe state history."
During one stretch of the contest, Weiss fanned eight of 10 Crusaders at the dish from the third inning through the fifth. Young said with Westview relying so heavily on its starting rotation, the Crusaders wanted to push Weiss' pitch count up and get him out of the game early. Yet, Jesuit had four first-pitch outs that helped Weiss in the seldom moments when he struggled.
"He was dicing today," Young said of Weiss. "He struggled at times, but he had us overall."
The University of Michigan signee's slider was filthy and his fastball stayed in the 90 miles an hour range in the 80-degree heat. Weiss walked five hitters, but Jesuit only had two runners advance to second base and none of them ever reached third. Weiss was simply in an unhittable zone.
"He expects to be dominant and he expects perfection," Woods said. "His competitive mentality gives him that edge. He's a fighter. He's our anchor."
Westview took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Weiss scored Evan Williamson on an RBI single and then later scored from third on a dropped third strike with Ben Braukmann at the plate. And in the sixth, Westview senior shortstop Jacob Cox led off with a double and after stealing third scored on a perfectly placed suicide squeeze by Mason Guerra to go up 3-0. With Weiss keeping Jesuit's normally blitzing lineup off the bags, three runs were plenty.
In a Beaverton community that's a baseball hotbed and spreads its youthful talent across the six public schools, Westview's run at the pinnacle of one of the top conferences in the state is outstanding, to say the least. Westview's offense with Weiss, Woods, Cox, Braukmann, Guerra, Josh Moreno and many others mashed collectively, forming an order with no discernible weaknesses. Weiss, Braukmann and Cox threw complete games seemingly every time out on the bump. For all the Metro success and individual stardom over the years, Westview has won just one state championship, back when current St. Louis starting catcher Carson Kelly was at center stage. This year's version of the Wildcats, Woods said, is different than seasons past and capable of finally dog-piling on Weiss at Volcanoes Stadium on June 2.
"I think we're going to fulfill that state championship and put another banner up there," Woods said. "We know anybody can be beaten on any given day, but Lord willing we'll win a state championship. Through the years we're been ingrained to never quit, don't give up. With that mentality and our team chemistry, I think we can win the whole thing."