In his first year as a varsity starter, there was one player who Blue Springs South senior right fielder Derek Mammen looked up to when getting accustomed to playing at the high school level.
It was former first baseman Tate Holmes, someone who was known for his leadership on the Jaguars two years ago.
“I knew Tate before I was moved up (to varsity),” said Mammen, a first-team Examiner All-Area player last season. “He really helped bring me into the team. He morphed me into the player I am. He made sure I was comfortable and that I wasn’t trying to do too much. He made sure I fit in with the rest of the guys and that I wasn’t too overwhelmed. Tate was my guy.”
Now, Mammen is one of those leaders for a South team that is playing for a chance to advance to the Class 5 state semifinals when his team takes on Liberty in a state quarterfinal at 5 p.m. today at Liberty High School.
“We saw early on how Derek goes about stuff,” South coach Ben Baier said. “He’s even-keeled most of the time. I have seen him get upset but not to the point where he’s gone and lost his mind. He competes and the younger guys on the team see that. They see the quiet way he goes about stuff. He is confident in who he is. He leads by example extremely well.”
South may not be in this position if it wasn’t for its powerful senior. He hit a home run late in the Class 5 District 14 championship game against Blue Springs to seal an 8-6 win. So far this season, Mammen is hitting .264 with four home runs, 22 RBIs and 22 runs scored after hitting .383 with 25 RBIs as a junior.
He has been a staple of the middle of the Jaguars lineup that has included catcher Allante Hall, a University of Arkansas commit, and shortstop John Herrmann. He’s been a part of a red hot offense that has averaged 8.33 runs per game in South’s last nine contests.
“Allante has been our No. 3, John Herrman has been our No. 4 and Derek has been our No. 5,” Baier said of his batting order. “That’s really good combination for us for the past couple of weeks.”
Not only has Mammen big been big with his bat, his work in the outfield has been solid, as well. He has a strong arm in right field and has been put in that position because of a special reason.
“In right field here, our field faces the sun,” South coach Ben Baier said. “The guy out there has to feel like he can take it off his head if he has to. A lot of guys will run away from (the ball) because they can’t see it. The past six, seven years, we’ve had guys who I felt would give us the effort we needed in right field. Derek has done that.
“He has a good arm, but he and the rest of our guys know to do the right thing and hit the cutoff man and throw to the right base.”
While Mammen has shown the ability to play baseball at the college level, he decided not to play at the next level. He’s been a multiple-time academic all-state player and plans on getting a communications degree at DePaul University.