Three years ago, Blue Springs South baseball coach Ben Baier called three promising sophomores aside following a tough loss to Suburban Big Seven rival Lee’s Summit.
“I knew these guys were the future of the team, the ‘Core Four,’ and I got after ‘em a little bit,” said Baier, after a spirited Tuesday morning practice on the turf infield at Odessa High School. “They were four guys you knew you could depend on in any situation.
“I knew the game was as important to them as it was to me, and they really responded. And now, they’re four of our senior leaders and they played a big role in getting us to state. We wouldn’t be going without them.”
The Core Four — center fielder Jared Ravencamp, right fielder Derek Mammen, infielder/closer Dustin Brewer and catcher Allante Hall -— are players that Baier has enjoyed coaching.
“These are the type of players you have to have to be successful — to get to state,” said Baier, who took his team to Odessa to practice because Thursday’s 4 p.m. Class 5 state semifinal game in O’Fallon, Mo., will be played on turf.
“They are ‘we before me,’ players, and I’m not saying they’re the only guys like that on the team. We have a ton of guys like that on our team, but they have been together since they were sophomores, and I am so happy their dream of playing for a state championship is coming true.”
This talented group of seniors have been together for so long, they complete each other’s sentences and know what one player is going to say before he opens his mouth.
And if one makes a mistake, it is quickly and loudly corrected.
“Since we were little kids, really little, we’ve dreamed about this,” said Ravencamp, who had two big hits and 10 putouts in the Jaguars’ 7-2 quarterfinal win at Liberty.
“I don’t know if we had a clue we’d ever do it, but we dreamed about it.”
Hall, Brewer and Mammen nodded in agreement.
“I know I’ve dreamed about it since fourth or fifth grade, since we all started playing,” said Mammen, who cracked two homers in the district tournament to help the Jaguars get past Grain Valley and Blue Springs. “Now, it’s all coming true and it’s great.”
Hall, who moved to Blue Springs before his sophomore year added: “When I moved here, these are the guys who made me feel welcome, who became my friends. We all talked about what we needed to do to go to state back when we lost (to Lee’s Summit West and Lee’s Summit) our sophomore and junior years.
“We saw the seniors’ seasons come to an end and it was tough. We didn’t want to experience that kind of disappointment.”
Brewer, who has become the ultimate table setter from his leadoff position, said one key to success is that every player knows his role on the team.
“I know that if I get on base, someone behind me is going to get me home,” Brewer said.
Ravencamp added: “I follow Dustin and if he’s on first, I’m going to get him to second. If he’s on second, try to get him to third.”
Hall then explained his and Mammen’s role.
“That’s what we do. We get the guy in the position where he can score if Derek or I hit the ball hard,” he said. “We try to hit it to the outfield if someone is on third or just hit it hard if they are in scoring position.”
A smiling Mammen added: “Keep the line moving. One guy does his job, then the next guy does his job. That’s how we play winning baseball.”
And that’s how dreams come true, too.