Ben Baier believes in team baseball, and his Blue Springs South squad turned in one of its most effective performances in a Class 5 state quarterfinal at Liberty High School Thursday afternoon.
With Brandt Lightner throwing a solid two-run, six-hit complete game that allowed his defense to turn in some sterling defensive gems, the 22-8 Jaguars downed the host Blue Jays 7-2 to advance to the Class 5 state final four next Thursday in O’Fallon.
The Jaguars will play 35-2 Vianney, a 9-2 winner over Jackson, in the state semifinal at 4 p.m.
The Jaguars played small ball, long ball, smart ball, defensive ball – in other words, “Baier Ball.”
“We played the way Coach likes us to play,” said senior center fielder Jared Ravencamp, who made two highlight reel catches and added two singles and a run. “This was Blue Springs South baseball – starting with Brandt on the mound, me and (leadoff hitter) Dustin (Brewer) getting on base and letting the other guys drive us in and doing everything you need to win a big game like this.”
When asked if he knew that he had nine putouts in the game, the usually stoic Ravencamp grinned and hopped up a down a few times.
“Nine? Really?” he asked. “That’s all Brandt. He pitches to contact, and he has so much faith in the guys playing behind him, just like we have in him when he’s pitching. This was just such a great game, the perfect game to win before going to state.”
Baier, who preaches team over individual statistics and doesn’t even total his players’ stats until the end of the season, was all smiles when Ravencamp – who else? – caught the final out in center field to trigger a dogpile.
“It all starts on the bump, and Brandt Lightner was a stud today,” Baier said. “He’s been nails all postseason, So have all our guys. That’s a good team, and we had to play like we did to get past Liberty.”
Brewer led off the quarterfinal with a walk and later scored on Allante Hall’s sacrifice fly.
Liberty tied it 1-all in the top of the second, but the Jaguars roared back to take a 3-1 lead when Brady Strickert walked with the bases loaded and Will Heller added a sacrifice fly.
The Blue Jays added another solo run, but the Jaguars took control with a four-run third inning that featured three singles, two stolen bases, a balk and Derek Mammen’s RBI triple.
“That triple was pretty weird because I singled, but they called me back to the plate because (Liberty starter Gibson Brown) balked before I hit it,” said Mammen, who later added a single and a walk. “I got up again and hit the triple, so I wasn’t that upset they took the single away.
“Besides, the way Brandt was pitching, we felt like we had plenty of runs to work with.”
Lightner, who did not allow a walk and was helped by solid defense, turned all the attention to his coach and teammates.
“This was the type of game Coach Baier really likes – a lot of running, steals, timely hits, great defense – and I have so much confidence in my team,” Lightner said. “When they scored, we came right back and scored and that just made me more confident out on the mound.”
Brewer, who has been such a catalyst all season for the Jaguars, finished with two walks, a single, two runs scored and two stolen bases. He and the No. 2 hitter, Ravencamp, accounted for four runs and three of the Jaguars’ eight hits.
“Jared and I have dreamed about this game, about going to state since we were little kids,” Brewer said, “and it feels as good as we thought it would. We can’t wait for next week.”