Two days earlier, Papillion-La Vista pitcher Justin Gassert didn’t make it out of the first inning.
But Wednesday night was the senior’s chance for redemption, and he made the most of it.
Gassert scattered eight hits and Landen Weisbeck belted a two-run homer as the Monarchs defeated top-ranked Papillion-La Vista South 2-1 at Fricke Field to stay alive in the Class A state baseball tournament. The game was played in front of an overflow crowd estimated at 800.
Papio will play Millard South in a 10 a.m. semifinal Thursday at Werner Park, with the winner advancing to play Omaha Westside at 12:30 p.m. for the championship.
“That was big time,” Monarchs coach Nate McCabe said. “Those guys have basically owned us so it felt really good to win this game.”
Gassert drew the start after lasting just one-third of an inning against Westside on Monday night in a 9-8 loss. But that performance spurred him on Wednesday night against the crosstown rival Titans.
“After that last game, I was really upset with myself,’’ he said. “I knew I had to help my team out tonight and throw strikes.’’
Weisbeck put the Monarchs on top in the first inning, belting a home run over the left field fence. That also brought home Grant Van Scoy, who had walked.
“I knew it was gone off the bat,’’ Weisbeck said. “It felt good to be able to put us ahead.’’
Gassert also was happy to see that ball fly out of Fricke Field.
“Landen and I have been buddies since preschool,’’ the pitcher said. “It was huge for us to get the lead early like that.’’
Gassert made those two runs stand up, though the Titans threatened all night. They had a runner in scoring position in every inning and finally broke through in the sixth.
Zach Hansen led off with a single and Danny Greco followed with a double. When the ball wasn’t fielded cleanly in the outfield, Hansen kept racing around third and scored the Titans’ first run.
Gassert escaped further damage by striking out pinch-hitter Kieron Keffer and Tyler Milz to retire the side.
After Papio was retired in order in the sixth, McCabe made the decision to send Gassert back out for the seventh.
“The kid has worked his tail off to get to this point,’’ McCabe said. “And after the other night, this was his game to finish.’’
Brent Kirsch drew a leadoff walk but was erased on a fielder’s choice after a Sam Palensky bunt. Palensky then stole second, which eventually led to the defensive play of the game by Papio sophomore shortstop Van Scoy.
Josh Kiger struck out, but the ball rolled away from catcher Joey Ludemann. He threw to first to get the out, but Palensky then broke for third.
The throw to third base sailed over the head of third baseman Weisbeck, but Van Scoy alertly backed it up, preventing the tying run from scoring. Gassert did the rest, striking out Chris May to end the game.
“It’s a great win for our program,’’ McCabe said. “But winning a game like this is what we expect now.’’
Papillion-LVS (22-4) ........... 000 001 0—1 8 0
Papillion-LV (15-10) ........... 200 000 x—2 3 1
W: Gassert. L: Suponchick. 2B: PLVS, Greco 2. HR: PLV, Weisbeck.
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