At this point in the season, Blue Springs South baseball coach Ben Baier isn’t worried about style points or how his players handle high-pressure situations. It’s survive and advance time, after all.
Blue Springs South survived Monday, and it did advance in the Class 5 District 14 tournament with a 4-3 squeaker over William Chrisman in a first-round game moved from a soggy Grain Valley field to Blue Springs High School. South (15-12) will next meet Fort Osage today (site and time have not been determined as of press time).
South survived a less-than-spectacular day at the plate, untimely walks and some shaky fielding and a game Chrisman team that rallied from a 4-1 sixth inning deficit. The Jaguars were far from polished, but they got the job done, and that’s all Baier wanted to see.
“At this time of the year it’s all about having one more run than the other team,” Baier said. “And we were able to do that today. We get to move on, and that’s all you worry about.”
South had few worries going into the sixth inning with a 4-1 lead thanks to a two-run homer from John Herrman in the fifth. It appeared to be cushion enough for Jaguars starter Will Royster, who had held Chrisman (7-16) to one run and two hits to that point.
Royster gave up a one-out walk to Matthew Miller and Jordan Mabie followed with a hard hit that rolled to the right field fence for an RBI double. With two out, Fausto Montero tapped a roller down the third base line that Jaguars third baseman Cale Sackewitz bobbled as he charged the ball. That brought home Mabie and made it a one-run game.
Royster then had a shot from Connor Yeisley carom off his leg for an infield single that ended his day. Baier said Royster wasn’t injured, but he thought his right-hander was tiring.
“We had two back-to-back that could have been the end of it,” Baier said. “But (Chrisman) did what they were supposed to do. They hit the baseball, they put the ball in play and we didn’t come up with a play when we needed to.”
South right-hander Clark Wyatt relieved Royster and got the final out of the sixth. Wyatt struck out Brennan McGraw to start the seventh, but a single by Billy Ross kept the Bears breathing. But after Ross was caught in a rundown, Wyatt fanned Dawson Herl to end the game.
“I told them they played a heck of a game,” Chrisman coach Miles Shelton said. “We lost to this team 10-0 in the (Eastern Jackson County) tournament last year, and to play a ballgame like this against them was a heck of an effort. They played until the end.”
Chrisman battled from behind after South took a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Back-to-back singles from Brady Strickert and Ben Bryan started the frame. Strickert scored when Tucker Woods drew a bases-loaded walk and Bryan came home on an error.
It could have been a bigger inning for South if not for a spectacular defensive play by Herl. With one out and the bases loaded, Herl caught a fly ball from Grant Geren and fired a shot to the plate that nailed South’s Jaylon Johnson as he charged home from third.
“That was the first time he threw a kid out since week one actually,” Shelton said. “He’s been making a lot of plays in center field for us. That kept us in the game.”
Yeisley, Chrisman’s starting pitcher, scored the Bears’ first run in the fifth when he walked and came home on a groundout. The Jaguars responded in the bottom of the frame when Herrman crushed a ball over the left field fence one out after Geren walked.
“It didn’t feel as good as I wanted it to off the bat,” Herrman said. “But it put us up (three) runs and I was just glad I could help us win.”
Still, it proved enough to keep South’s season going. Barely enough, but that’s fine.
“It doesn’t matter,” Baier said. “Nobody’s going to care if you won by one or you won by seven.”