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Wildcats claim share of Metro League crown

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Westview baseball team continues to assert its dominance in district domain with win over Jesuit

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview senior Keegan Huey-Woods hit a monster solo homer to help the Wildcats beat Jesuit on Monday.

Westview doesn't rebuild, it reloads.

That common theme used to be thrown around the Metro League in jest. The Wildcat baseball team never seemed to run out of superstars, no matter how many graduated the year before. The succession from year-to-year, the proverbial torch passing from one future Division One star to the other was ceaseless.

This season, however, was supposed to be different. This spring the Wildcats' four-year run of Metro ascendance would run out, it was said, on account of graduation ransacking the last of Westview's all-world performers.

Funny how some things just never seem to switch up.

Afresh with almost an entirely new cast of characters, the remixed Wildcats have again grabbed the Metro mantle. Despite a season-long overture from perennial archenemy Beaverton, Westview clinched at least a share of the Metro crown with an 11-4 win over Jesuit on Monday at Jesuit High School. At 11-3 in Metro with a two-game set against Glencoe this week, Westview will have the opportunity to win the district crown outright for the second straight season. Beaverton (11-5 in Metro) wrapped up conference play with a 7-2 loss to Southridge on Monday. All Westview needs to do now is split with the Crimson Tide to again stand atop of Metro by its lonesome.

"We didn't want to tie with Beaverton again," Westview senior outfielder Keegan Huey-Woods said. "We came into this season with a lot of outsiders expecting us not to be able to win Metro. In fact, I don't think people expected us to do great. We've really had to come together as a team and this game really showed that. This is a great start to the week. We were up the whole game. I don't think we ever died down."

For the fifth consecutive season, Westview will be Metro champions. This banner, however, might be the Wildcats' most unexpected. After all, losing 13 seniors off a 6A semifinal team is often cause to regroup with young guys and prepare for the future. But that doesn't happen on 185th Avenue. While Beaverton was pegged as the proverbial preseason favorite to win Metro going away, Westview simply laid in wait and let players such as Huey-Woods, Jacob Cox, Mante Woods, Ben Braukmann and Carter Sakamoto begin to flourish with extended playing time.

"Everyone overlooked us this year ... we've used that as fuel to the fire," Westview junior pitcher Willie Weiss said. "It's really motivated our team to work hard and come out and win. Everyone was expecting Century, Jesuit, Beaverton, all those teams to come out and win it. But it's huge that we were able to surprise a lot of people. I think we've caught the state's eye and we're going to keep shocking teams."

Westview came into Monday's game against the defending state champions in desperate need of a victory to keep pace with Beaverton in the league standings. And that sense of urgency was apparent in the top of the second when the Wildcats put up three runs to give Weiss an early 3-0 edge.

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview junior pitcher Willie Weiss pitched more than six high quality innings against Jesuit.

"I honestly think we do best when our backs are against the wall," Huey-Woods said. "We knew we needed a win and we knew we had Willie on the mound. Sometimes we go into cruise control because we know we have our ace out there. This game we did a really good job of doing the little things. Typically we're one of those teams that has one big inning and we score one later. But we manage to have consistent four, five runs of scoring and that was huge for us."

Woods doubled in the second inning and was brought home by Luke Pilat after the junior third baseman reached third on a sacrifice bunt.

"I think our team is finally starting to trust each other," Weiss said. "We know when there's a guy on second, the next guy is going to move them over and the next guy is gonna get the job done. We know the guy behind us can do the job."

"It awesome to have some leeway," Weiss said. "I knew I could just pitch and not have to worry about striking everybody out or give up any runs."

Few players have been symbolic of Westview's unanticipated return to the top of Metro than Huey-Woods. Stuck behind the likes of Kenyon Yovan and Donovan Baldocchi last year, Huey-Woods found it difficult to find meaningful playing time on a senior-laden, star-driven squad. But rather than pout, he was patient and paid his dues. Over the summer he found a role both as a right-handed starter and reliant reliever on the Wildcat pitching staff and wielded a bat strong and sturdy enough to warrant regular plate appearances in head coach Steve Antich's everyday lineup.

His forbearance, like many of his Wildcat teammates, has been reciprocated.

Huey-Woods said he's been working on sitting back in the batter's box and driving pitches that travel toward the outside part of the plate. And when Jesuit starting pitcher Trey Werner ventured into that realm in the top half of the third, Huey-Woods let the ball come into his wheelhouse and smashed it out the park, literally. The senior looked bummed as the ball appeared to be a routine pop fly. But the towering fly ball kept carrying and carrying until it spilt through the 60-foot fence posts in left-center to make it 4-0.

"I knew I got a good piece of it, but I wasn't sure how much," Huey-Woods said. "Once I saw the home plate umpire waving his finger (to signal the home run), I was pretty stoked. Before the game, I was curious to know how far the ball would have to go to get out of here. The stories you hear are Carson (Kelly) and Sam Johnson hitting them out of here in (batting practice). It was pretty awesome."

Weiss was formidable on the mound, allowing just two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings of work. Jesuit senior Kyle Knell hit an RBI single in the bottom of the third. And Ennis Ferguson added a bloop single RBI in the bottom of the seventh. By then, however, Westview had piled on seven more runs. Sakamoto scored a pair with a two-run double. Cox and Josh Moreno both drove in runs with RBI singles. And Weiss sat down 11 straight Crusader hitters after giving up the Knell RBI to keep Jesuit's speedy, athletic lineup off the bases.

"I usually get more into the game as it goes," Weiss. "I start off a little slow, but throughout the game, I start getting more dialed in. It seemed that way today. It was awesome."