Austin Simms woke up a few minutes before 7 o’clock Thursday morning and could not fall back to sleep.
That won’t be a problem for him this morning, as he should sleep like a baby following a gritty, nine-hit performance on the mound Thursday afternoon that led Blue Springs South High School to a 7-2 state quarterfinal win over Staley at the Staley Athletic Complex.
The victory punches the Jaguars’ ticket to the baseball state final four for the first time in school history.
Last year, Simms was a 4-2 tough-luck loser to the Falcons in the same quarterfinal round. He said now he can forget that loss and look toward to the possibility of winning the first baseball state championship in school history.
“I’ll be honest with you,” said Simms, who allowed just one earned run and struck out six, “I’ve thought a lot about that loss last year. I thought a lot about it every day for about two weeks after we lost, and then I thought about it again at the start of this season.
“Now, I’m never going to think about it again, and that’s a good feeling. Our offense and defense took care of me today. I wish I could tell you how good I feel right now, but I can’t even put it into words.”
Patrick Lemberger lined an RBI single off starter Jared Lloyd to give South a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third inning after Reece Eddins received an intentional walk.
“It felt good to get that hit after they walked Reece, I’ll admit it,” said Lemberger, who had two hits and two RBIs. “Everything about this game feels good. We made school history – it doesn’t get much better than that.”
The Jaguars scored four runs in the third inning and added three more in the fourth, with Colton Pogue and Lemberger getting RBI singles.
“This is my first year of playing varsity,” Lemberger added, “and I’m a senior. So that makes it even more special for me. And it makes it special to share it with such a great group of guys.”
Pogue, who had two hits and scored two runs, agreed with his teammate.
“It’s amazing,” Pogue said. “We have set a legacy that people will always remember, but we have to remember that our journey is far from over. We have the two biggest games of the season next week in O’Fallon.”
The 23-11 Jaguars will play Columbia Rock Bridge at 4 p.m. Thursday at T.R. Hughes Stadium in O’Fallon. The championship game will be played at 1 p.m. Friday.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said coach Ben Baier, who received a bear hug from former South head coach Richard Wood, who has served as the public address announcer for all home games this season. “I’m happy for this group of kids, because they are a group that you like to see succeed. They practice the right way. They play the game the right way. They care about each other, and they came up to Staley today and took care of business.”