Blue Springs South’s Trevor Wendleton, Andrew Tritsch and Patrick Lemberger are living the dream.
This trio of Jaguar seniors aren’t the marquee players who attract the postgame headlines. No, but they are the heart and soul of a baseball team that is two wins away from the first state championship in the program’s history.
The 23-11 Jaguars meet 22-12 Columbia Rock Bridge at 4 p.m. Thursday at T.R. Hughes Stadium in O'Fallon, Mo, in a Class 5 state semifinal game. Francis Howell then takes a 28-10 record into its semifinal game against 29-7 Vianney.
“You don’t win without guys like Trevor, Tritsch and Patrick,” South coach Ben Baier said before Tuesday afternoon’s practice session on the sun-baked Jaguar field. “Here’s the deal about those guys: Trevor was cut from the team when he was a sophomore; Tritsch was cut when he was a freshman; and this is the first year Lemberger has played varsity, and he’s our cleanup hitter.
“They could have quit, they could have been disappointed with my decisions and just walked away. But they didn’t, and when you have guys who work hard to become a part of the team, well, you just love being around players like that.”
Wendleton has one responsibility for the Jaguars.
“I’m the guy who goes in to pinch run for the catcher or pitcher or maybe another player late in the game,” Wendleton said. “And I take it seriously. I’m watching the pitcher the entire game, trying to get a read on his delivery, because I know if I’m in the game, I’m playing a big role for the team.”
When asked about being cut as a sophomore, Wendleton just smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
“It happens – you don’t like it, but it does happen,” Wendleton said. “I had a talk with coach, we talked about what I needed to work. I made it a goal to come back, make the team and make the most of my opportunities, and that’s what I’m doing. And I’m having so much fun.”
Tritsch is the Jaguars starting right fielder. He came up with what might be the defensive gem of the season when he made a diving catch after a long run to right-center during the 13-5 district-final victory over Lee’s Summit West. The score was 8-5 and West had two runners were on base when Tritsch made the play.
“I feel like I can pitch to contact because we have such a great defensive team,” said Reece Eddins, the starter and winning pitcher of that game. “Tritsch’s catch might have been the biggest play of the game. It saved a couple of runs when it was still a close game.”
Tritsch takes great pride in his outfield play because he went through the South system as an infielder.
“I always played second or third base, and this year they needed help in the outfield and I told Coach Baier I’d do anything to help the team,” Tritsch said. “This season has been a dream come true.
“When I got cut as a freshman, I knew I was going to try out again. I worked hard, listened to the coaches’ suggestions and now I have a chance to help the team win a state championship. It's all pretty amazing.”
Lemberger, the Jaguars starting left fielder, is amazed to find himself in the cleanup spot on a team bidding for a state championship.
“It's all kind of like a dream,” said Lemberger, who was moved from his spot higher in the batting order to the No. 4 slot when the team was struggling through a midseason slump in which it lost six of eight games. “I played all over when I was a junior varsity player, and this year I really like left field.
“I am not your typical cleanup hitter, because I don’t have much power,” Lemberger said, “but I can make contact. And if a guy is on base, I’m going to do all I can to move him over into scoring position or drive him home.”
He had three hits and two RBIs in the win over West and two hits and two more RBIs in a 7-2 sectional win at Staley that punched the Jaguars’ ticket to state.
“Lemberger is a hitter, pure and simple,” Baier said. “He will give himself up at the plate to move a runner over, and look at what he’s done in the postseason. He’s been one of our top hitters. And Tritsch has played a solid right field all season. He started off a little slow but has been great lately.
“These are the type of kids you enjoy being around, the type of players you want to be successful. They’re the type of kids who have made this such a special season – and I can say that about every player on this team.”