The challenge is a big one, and that’s fine with Lakota West High School’s baseball team.
The Firebirds will meet top-ranked Moeller in a Division I regional semifinal Thursday at the University of Cincinnati’s Marge Schott Stadium.
West (25-4) is the No. 4 squad in the latest state poll and will square off with the Crusaders (27-3), who have seven state championships and 11 Final Four berths to their credit, at 2 p.m.
“They are absolutely loaded, a very talented team,” Firebirds coach Bill Dreisbach said. “We feel like we’re pretty talented too. We have a ton of respect for Moeller. But we’ll be ready.”
A powerhouse pitching matchup between senior right-handers looms. It’s Austin Allinger (5-1, 0.92 earned run average, 62 strikeouts in 53 innings) for West and Grant Macciocchi (9-0, 1.02 ERA, 69 strikeouts in 55 innings) for Moeller.
Allinger has committed to Evansville. Macciocchi is headed for Missouri.
“(Macciocchi) dominates with his fastball,” eighth-year Crusaders coach Tim Held said. “He’s low 90s with his fastball and throws a three-quarter arm slot, so that kind of throws guys off being 6-foot-3 and dropping down a little bit.
“He’s got a very good curveball that, because of the arm slot, does run away a lot more than usual. He mixes in that occasional changeup and just does a great job pounding the strike zone.”
Dreisbach said Allinger “is upper 80s to 90. We don’t gun our guys here, so I couldn’t tell you that he’s absolutely hit 90 this year. But I have a sense that he has.”
The Firebirds have two .400 hitters: senior first baseman Jeremiah Johnson (.421) and Allinger (.411).
Offense has been an up-and-down thing for West, which has scored nine runs in three tournament wins. Pitching and defense have been consistently outstanding.
“We had a good nucleus coming back, so I expected us to be pretty good,” Dreisbach said. “What’s really made us that much better is the development of our pitching staff. The depth of our staff really shone through over the course of the season.”
The Firebirds have a team ERA of 2.23. Dreisbach said senior Alex Wagner (8-0, 1.33) “has been absolutely huge for us.”
Moeller’s team ERA is 2.11, and senior shortstop Kyle Dockus provides a steady blast at the top of the batting order. He’s hitting .422 with 25 RBIs and 26 stolen bases.
Dockus will play at Wright State and is one of 13 Crusaders committed at the next level (10 in Division I).
Moeller has captured 12 consecutive district crowns.
“I think I feel more pressure with that every year, just trying to make sure we make it to the Sweet 16,” Held said. “We expect to get everybody’s best shot. We’ll see teams that will just play absolutely fantastic against us, and we’ll see them a week later playing another team and they don’t look very good at all. I just look at our team and say, ‘That’s a Moeller effect.’ That team was so locked in to play us and ready to take their shot at our tradition and our legacy that they played great baseball against us. I think our kids accept that and take the field every day ready to defend that title and tradition. It makes it easier on me that they have that understanding.”
Mason (22-7) and La Salle (24-6) will play in the second regional semifinal at UC on Thursday at 5 p.m. The regional title will be decided Friday at 5 p.m.
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