The Blue Springs South baseball team has won three consecutive district tournaments, so the Jaguars know what it means to be in today’s sectional contest against longtime rival Rockhurst.
“We’ve been there, we know we have to play good, fundamental baseball and we’ll see what happens,” South coach Ben Baier said after a spirited Monday practice session at South, the site of today’s 4 p.m. Class 5 sectional playoff against the Hawklets (the game will be broadcast live on KCWJ 1030 AM).
The Jaguars take a 20-8 record into the game against the 19-9 Hawklets.
The two teams met twice during the regular season, with South traveling to Rockhurst to claim a crazy 9-8 win in a game they trailed 8-2 in the top of the sixth inning.
The Hawklets returned the favor, beating the Jaguars 10-5 at South, after South scored four runs in the bottom of the first inning.
“We played them twice and we know we have to play better Tuesday than we did in either one of those games to beat Rockhurst,” said shortstop John Herrman, whose solid infield play helped the Jaguars go 3-0 in district play, topping rival Blue Springs 8-6 in the title game. “We need to throw strikes, play good defense, get our offense going – all the things good teams do – to win Tuesday.”
Teammate Dustin Brewer, who had three hits, scored three runs and saved that win over the Wildcats, agreed.
“A lot of the guys on this team have been part of three district championship teams, so we know what we need to do,” said Brewer, the Jaguars’ leadoff hitter. “You know what we need to do? We need to throw the ball, catch the ball, hit the ball and play the way we’re capable of playing.
“If we do that, we should be fine.”
Derek Mammen, who slugged homers in the district semifinal and championship games, said this year’s Jaguars squad isn’t just a team.
“We’re a family,” Mammen said. “We weren’t a family early in the season, but we became one as the season went on. We had some tough times, and fought them and now, were in the sectionals. This is where we wanted to be and none of us want our season to end.”
The same applies to their coach, whose love of baseball is boundless.
“I like this group, I really do,” Baier said. “I hear kids talking about family, and a lot of times, that is just a sports cliché. But it’s not with this group. They really do care about each other, and right now, we’re playing like a family instead of a bunch of individuals.
“Fundamentally, we have to be sound the rest of the way. We can’t give a team extra outs and we need to keep playing good defense. I think we just made one error in those three district wins.
“We’re all excited about Tuesday. We’re playing the game we love, you have to be excited about that.”