When the Blue Springs South baseball team meets Vianney at 4 p.m. today at T.R. Hughes Stadium in O’Fallon, Mo., the Jaguars will be attempting to win the first state championship in the history of the program.
Jaguars coach Ben Baier has brought home enough conference, district and sectional hardware to fill a trophy case, and even earned a third-place state trophy four years ago.
But that first-place state crown has been elusive, and Baier and his Jaguars believe this year’s 22-8 team has what it takes to upset heavily favored and nationally ranked Vianney (35-2) in a Class 5 state semifinal game that can be heard on KCWJ 1030 AM.
When asked what he knew about the Griffins, the longtime Jaguars coach grinned.
“It might be easier to say what I don’t know about Vianney, because we have been scouting them and feel like we know all about their team,” Baier said of the Griffins, who are ranked sixth in the nation by USA Today and feature University of Missouri signee Luke Mann. “They are a very good team and have a great program, but we’re going to show up and see what happens. If we play like we’re capable – like we’ve been playing to get to state – I think it will be a great game and I’ll take my chances with our guys.”
The Jaguars last appeared in the state tournament in 2014, when they were blanked 2-0 by Columbia Rock Bridge before rebounding to claim a 2-1 third-place win over Vianney.
“The best thing about our team is that everyone knows his role, and is comfortable with his role,” center fielder Jared Ravencamp said. “I think that’s why we’ve been so good the last few weeks.
“Everything just jelled and we began playing our best baseball in the biggest games.”
Catcher Allante Hall – who has signed to play baseball at Arkansas and has not allowed a stolen base this season on a true stolen base attempt – agreed.
“We have guys like (leadoff hitter) Dustin (Brewer) and Jared who get on base and then the rest of our jobs is to get them home,” Hall said. “And we find a way to do it. If we need a base hit, we get base hit.
“If we need to hit the ball hard to the outfield, we do that, too. None of us try to do anything more than what we are capable of doing.”
That is the mantra of their coach, and a reason “Baier Ball” has carried the Jaguars to the final four for the second time in the past five years.
“We do all the little things you need to do to win,” said senior leadoff man Dustin Brewer, who has been a standout during the postseason with his ability to get on base and do whatever he needs to get in scoring position. “We bunt, we steal, we play small ball, we play the game the right way. That’s what coach has taught us, and we’ve paid attention.”
Added Baier: “We have ‘we before me’ players, guys who may not get a lot of attention or the big headlines, but we’re still playing, so we must be doing something right.”
In a line that became famous during the Kansas City Royals back-to-back World Series appearances in 2014 and 2015, right fielder Derek Mammen said, “We keep the line moving. One guy does his job, then the next guy does his job. That’s how we play winning baseball.”