Blue Springs South baseball coach Ben Baier said his team’s pitching had been a little shaky coming into its game against crosstown rival Blue Springs.
It certainly didn’t look that way Tuesday.
Will Heller tossed five shutout innings and Dustin Brewer finished the game with two scoreless frames in relief as the duo combined for 10 strikeouts as Blue Springs South capitalized on a pair of unearned runs in the sixth inning to down the Wildcats 2-0 in a Suburban Big Seven Conference showdown at Blue Springs High School.
“We played pretty fundamental today,” said Baier, whose team improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the conference. “That’s what we’re capable of. It’s a been a rough year for us missing games because of weather. That was Will’s first long outing of the season. I was happy with it.”
Heller was able to throw his curveball for stikes even during 3-ball counts. That allowed him to work out of jams throughout. In the bottom of the first inning, he escaped a two-out, two-on jam by inducing a groundout on a curve. In the second, he forced Nick Brandner to ground into a 1-5-3 double play with runners at second and first with no outs. He also stranded one runner in the third and two each in the fourth and fifth.
On two occasions, Blue Springs (7-4, 1-2) got base hits with a runner at second. But South had Jared Ravencamp, Derek Mammen and Grady Strickert in the outfield, all of whom have strong arms and kept the Wildcats from trying to score from second.
Heller picked up the win as he scattered seven hits across five innings and struck out seven while walking three.
“My curveball was feeling good today, and (catcher) Allante (Hall) was calling good pitches,” Heller said. “Whenever he called for the curveball, I had confidence. I knew, if I bounced it, he would block it.”
Added Blue Springs coach Tim McElligott: “Heller had us off balance all day with the curveball and we didn’t adjust to it. We just have to have better quality at-bats. We’ve got to get better hitting the baseball. I think we left 10 guys on. That’s too many.”
Brewer got the save as he retired all six batters he faced and struck out three. He used a tighter, higher-velocity curveball.
“The curveball is probably my main pitch,” Brewer said. “Coming in after Will, I just wanted to shut the game down.”
Blue Springs starting pitcher Jake Lufft matched Heller pitch for pitch, and got out a few jams of his own. He wiggled out of a bases-loaded, one-out situation when he struck out Strickert and Brewer in the second. He also stranded one runner in the first, two in the third and one in the fourth.
Lufft couldn’t escape a jam in the sixth inning, however. With one out, he hit Heller with a pitch and gave up a single to Cale Sackewitz, who advanced to second on a throw to third from the outfield.
With runners at second and third, Quinton Weld sent an outside fastball toward second baseman Logan MacKay, who was playing inside the grass. The ball ended up getting by him for an error, allowing both runners to score for the game’s only runs.
“Jake labored a little bit there at the end,” McElligott said. “It’s too bad that we couldn’t get him a couple of runs.”