Blue Springs South baseball coach Ben Baier has a couple of aces up his sleeve as his Jaguars prepare for today’s 4 p.m. Class 5 state semifinal game against Columbia Rock Bridge at T.R. Hughes Stadium in O’Fallon, Mo.
The 23-11 Jaguars are blessed with a deep pitching staff that includes two aces in Reece Eddins and Austin Simms. Simms started the season with a no-hit win, and last month Eddins became the first prep pitcher in Eastern Jackson County history to throw back-to-back no-hitters – both games against Blue Springs.
“We don’t care who’s on the mound,” said shortstop Colton Pogue, the Suburban Big Six Player of the Year. “They’re both aces.”
Eddins, who has signed with the University of Nebraska, was on the mound in South’s 13-5 sectional win over Lee’s Summit West, and the Drury University-bound Simms shut down Staley 7-2 in a quarterfinal win that sent the Jaguars to the final four for the first time in school history.
When asked which player would start today’s game, Baier grinned and said, “I know. And I’m going to let them know. But everyone else is going to have to go to the game and find out. But you and I both know, we have 1 and 1A starters with Reece and Austin.
“We know that both guys can get the job done. They’re been doing it all year for us.”
Both big right-handers, who also play first base when not pitching, enjoy being on the mound in the biggest games of the year and can’t wait for today’s semifinal contest.
“Whatever decision coach makes is fine with me,” Eddins said earlier in the week. “Why change anything now? We’ve got a great team and right now, we’re playing our best ball.
“I know that Austin is going to be ready, I’m going to be ready and our team is going to be ready. This is what we played for all season.”
Simms owns a 3-1 victory over Rock Bridge earlier this season, but he says you can’t compare that game to today’s contest.
“We have some confidence because we beat them once, but they beat us in another game,” Simms said, “and those games didn’t mean as much as the final four games are going to mean. Really, you can't even compare them.
“But we do know about them, and they know about us because we have played two times this season.”
Baier set up a tough non-conference schedule to prepare his team for big games like the one it’s going to play today (see related story).
“We know what it’s like to play the best teams in the state because we have been playing the best teams in the state all season,” Baier said. “So often times, you get to state and play a team you don’t know anything about.
“We’ve played Rock Bridge twice. They know about us, we know about them – now it’s time to play the game and let the better team win.”