A stout breeze to dead center field raked Blue Springs South’s brand-new baseball field Friday – the kind of breeze that would make any pitcher nervous.
Didn’t faze Blue Springs South senior Brady Strickert one bit. He welcomed it, actually.
“With the wind blowing out everyone thinks, ‘Oooh, there’s going to be some home runs in this game,’” Strickert said. “I loved being able to pitch in this game.”
Strickert did get dinged for one homer in his start against Blue Springs Friday, but that was the only blemish in his almost complete game 8-2 Suburban Bix Six victory. A left-hander, Strickert displayed almost pinpoint control in holding the Wildcats to two hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings.
And with an eight-run lead to work with after South rolled up seven runs in the second inning, Strickert could relax even more in what he called his best outing of the season.
“I struggled my first couple (of starts) with walks, not being able to throw strikes, but I was able to command it a lot better today,” Strickert said. “I could control my curveball very well today. I could throw it literally wherever I wanted to and it felt great.”
That curveball, South coach Ben Baier said, was so good that all Strickert needed to go with it was his fastball.
“He got on top early in the count which was a big part of his success,” Baier said. “It was fastball and curve, but we were hitting spots and we were able to do some things.”
Strickert was able to keep Blue Springs (3-14, 1-5 Big Six) off the bases until Tanner Martin reached on an error leading off the fourth inning. Blake Stegner followed Martin and crushed the second pitch he saw over the left field fence for the Wildcats’ lone runs.
“It was my first (batter) going out of the stretch,” Strickert said. “He just made good contact on me and it went. It was a good hit.”
But Strickert and South (7-4, 3-1) were still well in control, thanks mainly to a seven-run second inning. Blue Springs starter Mathis Mauldin struggled to find the plate, and the Jaguars took advantage. Mauldin walked five over 1 2/3 innings.
Isaiah Frost’s two-run triple that sailed just over the reach of Blue Springs shortstop Austin Neuweg was the big blow in the second. Ben Bryan also had an RBI triple, and Strickert doubled home a run.
But Baier thought the biggest at-bats came early in the frame from Cade Sackewitz, who walked after seeing 10 pitches, and Caleb Israelite, who followed with an RBI single after being down 0-2 in the count.
“And that set the tone for the inning,” Baier said. “Lately we have not done a very good job of having a plan at the plate. We have to have an idea what we want to do up there and I thought today overall we did that.”
Strickert appeared on his way to a complete-game win until Baier pulled him after he gave up a walk after getting out the first two batters in the seventh. If he was disappointed at coming so close to going the distance, he sure didn’t show it.
Not after a game that turned out to be a breeze.
“It’s a lot easier to pitch with a big lead like that,” Strickert said. “It was a great team win.”