• Photo Showcase: Class A state baseball, May 16
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LINCOLN — Omaha Creighton Prep did just enough Wednesday night to stay alive at the Class A state baseball tournament.
As a result, the Junior Jays will play Thursday for their ninth championship.
Prep pushed across a run in the bottom of the seventh inning to slip past Millard North 4-3 in an elimination game at Sherman Field. The victory boosts the top-ranked Junior Jays into a 10 a.m. championship game Thursday against Lincoln Northeast at Haymarket Park.
If the Rockets — the only team without a loss in the double-elimination tournament — lose that first game, a second game would follow for the title. But that was secondary after Wednesday night's game for Prep coach Pat Mooney, who was trying to hustle his team out of the ballpark to head back to Omaha.
“We've got to get up early,'' he said. “I'm just glad we're still around to play for that title.''
Prep, the top seed in the eight-team tourney, has fought back after losing a first-round game Saturday to eighth-seeded Lincoln East. The Junior Jays have survived three elimination games, with the Mustangs becoming their latest victim.
“Give Prep credit for winning,'' Millard North coach Dave Cork said. “We had a chance to build a bigger lead and we just couldn't do it.''
The Mustangs led 3-0, but the Junior Jays fought back to tie it with two runs in the second inning and one in the fourth. The score stayed tied until the bottom of the seventh, when Prep went to work. Prep catcher Billy Lipari worked Millard North reliever Shayne Kelly for a walk, which brought on reliever Jake Siadek.
Junior Jays leadoff batter Jon Hechtner then attempted a sacrifice bunt twice and was unsuccessful. But with two strikes, he redeemed himself by lashing a single to left.
“I was pretty happy to get a hit,'' he said. “After I couldn't get that bunt down, I didn't think coach would be too happy.”
Hechtner was right.
“Every once in awhile I want to wring his neck,'' Mooney said. “But that hit was huge.''
With runners at first and second, Cale Dineen put down a bunt toward third base. Jack Wilson fielded it but threw high past first base, allowing courtesy runner R.J. Urzendowski to score the winning run.
Cork said he was proud of the way his team battled following an emotional 7-6, eight-inning loss to Lincoln Northeast on Tuesday night.
“We're a resilient bunch,'' he said. “We came to play tonight, but it wasn't quite good enough.''
The Mustangs had Prep starter McLaine Jonas on the ropes in the first inning, scoring twice on RBIs by Joe Dugan and Nick DeLuca. But Jake Gustafson hit into a double play, preventing further damage.
A Matt Evans sacrifice fly made it 3-0 in the second inning, but Prep got two RBIs from Alex Allbery and one from Lipari to tie it.
Jonas lasted five innings and Adam Wilson pitched the final two, earning the win in relief.
Now comes the challenge of playing Northeast, a team Prep has not played this season.
“We'll try to win that first game and try to survive that second one,'' Mooney said. “At least we've still got a chance.''
Millard North (27-9)..........................210 000 0 -- 3 7 0
Om. Creighton Prep (32-4)..................020 100 1 -- 4 9 1
W: Wilson. L: Kelly.