Blue Springs senior center fielder Blake Stegner was pumped.
That’s because he knew the ball he hit was going over the left-field fence as soon as it left his bat in the bottom of the fourth inning.
He walked up the first-base line and flipped his bat while admiring his home run. It was a blast that highlighted an 8-3 home win over crosstown rival Blue Springs South Friday in Suburban Big Six Conference action.
“I knew we had a lead in the fourth inning, so we didn’t have the motivation to play yet,” said Stegner, after his team ended a six-game losing streak to South. “But I knew after that, we had the motivation.”
Stegner, the No. 9 hitter, combined for three RBIs with freshman shortstop Austin Neuweg, the No. 8 hitter who went 2-for-4 with a two-run double in the bottom of the second inning.
It was some much needed production from the bottom of the lineup for Tim McElligott’s Wildcats (9-21, 3-5).
“For Austin to come in and do what he’s doing as a freshman, he’s been (good) with the glove and he’s doing things with the bat,” the veteran coach said. “Then Blake hits a home run on senior day. He has a little pop. He had a couple of homers last year. He’s like another leadoff guy down at the bottom.”
Those two are part of a late-season resurgence. Before the season, McElligot said he knew his young and inexperienced team would have some struggles to begin the season. But recently, Blue Springs is starting to find its groove, playing much better during the final stretch of the regular season.
“We’re getting some experience,” McElligott said. “We’ve been close all year. You just have to put a complete game together and we did it.”
Added Stegner: “Our team chemistry is a lot better. We have come to know each other a lot better, and we’re just kind of clicking right now.”
It showed after the Wildcats overcame an early deficit. South leadoff hitter tripled to start and senior Caleb Israelite followed with an RBI double for a 1-0 lead. John Herrman walked to put runners on first and second with zero outs. Blue Springs starting pitcher Tanner Martin got a strikeout, a ground out and a fly out to prevent any further damage.
“That inning was big,” South coach Ben Baier said. “We got a run in, then couldn’t score any more runs. That could have been a big inning for us. We could’ve gotten two or three more runs, but we didn’t do enough. We didn’t hit enough.”
Neuweg helped Blue Springs take the lead in the bottom of the second inning when he drilled a two-run, opposite field double to the right-center field gap, to make it 2-1.
“It was an outside pitch and to be honest, threw my hands at it and hit it to right-center,” Neuweg said.
The Jaguars (13-9, 5-4) retook a 3-2 lead in the third when Ben Bryan smoked a fastball over the fence in left-center field fence. After giving up those early runs, Martin settled down, retiring 12 of the next 14 batters he faced. He picked up the win, allowing three runs on six hits while walking two and striking out four.
“I felt like I threw pretty good,” Martin said. “I felt like I could have done better in the first inning. I threw 30 pitches. I tried to calm myself down. I was too amped up in the first inning. After that, I pounded the zone.”
Added McElligott: “With Tanner on the mound, you know what you’re going to get. We haven’t done a great job supporting him. Tonight, we did. Tanner doesn’t have any pressure on him when he has runs behind him.”
Blue Springs took the lead for good in the bottom of the third inning as it continued to time Will Royster’s fastballs well. First baseman Christian Garcia and Payton Schmidt each had RBI singles and a squeeze bunt from Aiden Smith scored another run to make it 5-3.
Stegner homered in the fourth to make it 6-3 and the Wildcats tacked on two more runs in the sixth on Trevor Blackwell’s RBI single and Garcia’s RBI fielder’s choice.