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Thunderbirds won’t miss out on state again, clinch Legion berth

Thunderbirds won’t miss out on state again, clinch Legion berth

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After just missing the state tournament in the spring, the American Legion team from Bellevue West wasn’t going to let that happen this summer.

DJ’s Dugout West (Bellevue West) defeated Ralston First State Bank 4-1 on Monday night at the Area A-4 tournament at Orval Smith Park. The win in the tourney semifinal guarantees that the Thunderbirds will move on to the 16-team state tournament that begins Saturday at two sites.

“For these guys, there absolutely was motivation,” DJ’s coach Jason Shockey said. “It was a frustrating end to the spring for us, and now we have a chance to move on.”

The Thunderbirds (38-8) advance to play Roof Tech (Millard West) in the area tourney final at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Roof Tech hasn’t lost yet in the double-elimination tournament, so DJ’s would need to win two games to capture the championship.

But Shockey said Monday night’s game — the one that punched his team’s ticket to state — was the one that really mattered.

“This was the game we had to win,” he said. “If we lost, it would have been like the spring all over again.”

The game at Orval Smith also was a homecoming for Shockey, who played on the Ralston High School team for his dad, Curt. The senior Shockey, an assistant for his son in the spring and summer at Bellevue West, led Ralston to six varsity championships from 1982 to 2004.

“We’re always very appreciative of playing here,” Jason Shockey said. “As an alum, it’s nice to come back and see what’s been done.”

DJ’s turned to its most experienced pitcher, Mitch Savine, to get the job done. The 2015 Bellevue West grad pitched sparingly at Wayne State this season but was in top form against Ralston, scattering six hits while pitching a complete game.

“Mitch was unreal,” Shockey said. “He disrupted their timing and just turned in a very gutty performance.”

Savine struck out seven and walked none. He set down Ralston in order in the final three innings to drop his summer ERA under 1.00.

“I had all three pitches working for me tonight,” he said. “I was able to hit my spots, and the guys played good defense behind me.”

DJ’s took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on an RBI single by C.J. Hlavac. Ralston tied it in the bottom of the inning on a double by Jake Kochanowicz and a run-scoring groundout by Jared Remar.

The Thunderbirds went ahead to stay in the fourth on an RBI single by Micah Savine, Mitch’s younger brother. DJ’s added a single run in the sixth on a wild pitch and another in the ninth on an RBI bunt single by Bryce Walker.

Ralston’s two pitchers, Easton Lavicky and Tyler Lux, surrendered eight hits but kept their team in the game. Coach Tim Winters’ squad hurt its chances with three infield errors.

“They have a veteran team and put a lot of pressure on you,” he said. “We didn’t make the plays we needed to make, and it cost us.”

DJ’s Dugout West (38-8).......010 101 001—4 8 0

Ralston FSB (18-21)...............010 000 000—1 6 3

W: Mitch Savine. L: Easton Lavicky. 2B: FSB, Donovan Warren 2, Jake Kochanowicz.

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Omaha World-Herald: Nebraska Prep Zone

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