Blue Springs South cleanup hitter Brady Strickert stood in the on-deck circle at Blue Springs South High School’s new baseball stadium as Lee’s Summit North elected to issue a free pass to No. 3 hitter John Herrman in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Strickert had struck out on “offspeed stuff,” in his previous at-bat against Broncos’ starter Dameon Velasquez, and the North coaching staff was hoping for a similar result with two runners on base and just one out.
“When a guy is walked in front of you, to have a pitcher face you, it just makes you that much more determined,” said Strickert, who crushed a 3-run, game-winning homer, to lead the Jaguars to a 4-2, come-from-behind Suburban Big SixConference win over the Broncos on a bright and sunny Monday afternoon.
“I was so determined when I went up to bat. He’d thrown me offspeed stuff in my previous at-bat, and that’s what I was looking for in that at-bat – but I was ready if he threw a fastball and he did.”
Prior to the pivotal at-bat, South coach Ben Baier had talked with his cleanup hitter about plate awareness, and how he wanted Strickert to “hit the ball hard.”
“Look at that inning,” Baier said, after South improved to 6-3 overall and 2-0 in conference action, “Grant Geren legs out an infield hit and is bunted over to second by (Quinton) Robertson. That leaves first open and they’re not going to let Herrman hit in that situation, and I talked to Brady about being ready for a curveball, or offspeed pitch, but to also be ready if he saw a fastball.
“I wanted him to hit the ball hard somewhere, but I wasn’t expecting him to hit it that hard out of the ballpark. It was a big hit and this was a big win. We have so many young, new faces on the team, and they’re still learning how to play at this level in this conference. And it’s big for them and the team to get off to this kind of start, overall and in conference.”
Following Strickert’s blast, Herrman exited his shortstop position and came in to close out the top of the seventh inning on the mound. After issuing a walk to Lane Overton, he retired the next three batters to make a winner of reliever Jay Greco, who pitched 2 1/3 innings and gave up just one run.The Broncos took a 1-0 lead against starter Will Royster on an Overton double and RBI single by T.J. Nichols.
The Jaguars knotted the score at 1-all on a solo homer by Ben Bryan in the bottom of the fifth.
North regained the lead when Velasquez singled with two outs in the top of the sixth, setting the stage for the Jaguars’ dramatic comeback.
“I was so happy for Brady when he got that homer,” Herrman said. “I couldn’t wait to get out there in the seventh and shut them down so we could get the win. We don’t have any superstar type players on our team, but we have a lot of good players who love to play the game. And if we keep playing like we did tonight, we should get some more wins this season.”