Qualifying for the American Legion regional baseball tournament is becoming a common occurrence for the team from Omaha Creighton Prep.
But that doesn’t mean the squad is any less excited to be heading there once again.
“Our guys are fired up,’’ coach Pat Mooney said. “It’s been a good summer and we hope to keep it going.’’
PI Midwest (Prep) finished as the Class A state Legion champion for the third consecutive year. Mooney’s squad defeated KB Building Services (Omaha Westside) 8-2 on Saturday night to claim the title.
Both teams will advance to the Central Plains Regional in Fargo, N.D. PI Midwest will play its first game in the double-elimination tournament Thursday at 5 p.m. against the North Dakota champion.
“You don’t know a lot about those other teams until you play them,’’ Mooney said. “But if they’ve gotten this far, you know they’re good.’’
Mooney’s squad certainly fits that bill after going 48-10 this summer. PI Midwest’s strong run made up for a disappointing spring when Prep failed to reach the varsity state tourney for just the second time since 1992.
“A big part of our improvement had to do with the weather,’’ Mooney said. “That rainy spring was really disruptive, and we were able to get into a much better rhythm this summer.’’
This is the 17th time that a team from Prep has captured the title in the state Legion tourney that dates to 1928.
Mooney, who guided PI Midwest to the Legion World Series last season, said that experience should help this year’s squad. Six players are back from the team that finished fourth nationally in 2012.
“When you’ve been to the regional and beyond, I think it helps calm you down,’’ the coach said. “There are always going to be some nerves, but it helps to know the routine.’’
Pitching has been one strength of this team, and that will be a key factor in PI Midwest’s tourney hopes. Leading the way is Creighton recruit Jeff Albrecht, who struck out 18 in one state tourney victory and got the win Saturday night against KB.
Other pitchers who will be counted on are Adam Wilson, McLaine Jonas, Alex Allbery, Jake Allen, Alex Armendariz and Jeff O’Doherty. That staff should be ready because of the six-man pitching rotation Mooney used this summer.
“The number of innings each of our guys have thrown is pretty low,’’ he said. “We should have some fresh arms for the tournament, and that’s important.’’
PI Midwest also can rely on a lineup that includes several players batting over .300. Jason Allbery is leading the team at .470 while Zach Garrett has a team-high 50 RBIs.
Mooney said he thought both Nebraska squads have the opportunity to do well at the regional.
“I think we both have a chance to make a dent,’’ he said. “Nebraska teams have shown over the years that they can compete with anyone.’’