For three innings Wednesday afternoon at Blue Springs South High School, it was difficult to tell who the top-ranked team in the state really was – the youthful and inexperienced Truman Patriots or coach Ben Baier's Jaguars.
The score was knotted at 1-all and Truman's Jeremy Kraus and South's Caleb Humphreys were embroiled in a good, old-fashioned pitching duel.
But in the end, South scored 10 runs in the final three innings to claim a mercy-rule 11-1 victory and improve to 3-0 on the young season.
Humphreys allowed just one run and Ethan Frazier pitched a scoreless inning of relief. Patrick Lemberger had three hits, scored a trio of runs and drove in a run while Nic Mertes added two hits and three RBIs.
The Patriots didn't do much defensively to help themselves as they committed seven errors. In a manner fitting of that lack of execution, the game-ending run scored when Trevor Wendleton cross the plate on a wild pitch in the bottom of the sixth inning.
“I just told the team that we are going to see a different Truman team a few weeks from now in the tournament at Legacy Park,” Baier said. “I got outcoached by John Eglich today. They picked off a couple of our runners and they did a lot of good things. But in the end, our experience and talent helped us win the game.
“And I was very happy with the pitching performances we got today from Caleb and Ethan. The wind was blowing and it started to rain the last few innings and our players didn't let that bother them or affect the way they played.”
Eglich, whose team fell to 0-3 with the non-conference loss, stressed the good things he saw from his young Patriots.
“We have so many young kids out there, and we are going to get better,” Eglich said. “We're not going to commit seven errors in many games – hopefully. We can learn a lot from this game. We were right there with them early in the game, and we found out what a good team can do in a few innings.
“It was 1-1, then, all of a sudden they have the 10-run lead and the game is over.”
South scored four runs in each of the fourth and fifth innings and got the walk-off win by adding two runs in the bottom of the sixth.
“It was a close game for a few innings, then we got our bats going,” Humpreys said of the Jaguars, who were ranked No. 1 in the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association preseason state poll. “As a pitcher on this team, all we have to do is keep a game close and we're going to have a good chance of winning because we have such a great offense.”
The American flag behind the South dugout flapped in 25 to 35 mph gusts throughout the game, but as Lemberger pointed out, “Truman was playing in the same conditions we were. It was tough out there weather-wise, but we knew it was going to be like that before the game started.
“You make a few adjustments and just go out and do your best. There are a lot of things we need to work on, because we know we're going to get every opponent's ‘A’ game this season.”