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Jaguars power up in district warm-up

By Bill Althaus
Blue Springs South's McKenna Lester (23) points to the sky as she heads for home plate after hitting a home run in Thursday's regular-season finale at Lee's Summit North. The Jaguars pounded out 20 hits to rout the Broncos 16-7.

Blue Springs South’s bats are heating up and Lee’s Summit North ace Cierra Harrison was given the afternoon off.

So the final meeting between the two longtime Suburban Big Eight rivals proved little as the visiting Jaguars pounded out 20 hits to claim a 16-7 victory Thursday afternoon.

McKenna Lester finished with five hits, four runs scored and four RBIs, including a two-run homer to lead the Jaguars hit parade. Tori Bradley was right behind with four hits, two runs scored and an RBI and Ella Westhoff added three singles and two runs scored from the No. 9 spot.

Blue Springs South's Ella Westhoff (9) gets the hold sign from coach Kristi Williams as she rounds second base following a hit in Thursday's game at Lee's Summit North. Westhoff had three of the Jaguars' 20 hits in a 16-7 victory.

The 17-8 Jaguars have been to state final four the past four years and won the last two state titles.

“The great thing about today,” coach Kristi Williams said after her team wrapped up the regular season with a 10-4 league mark, “was the way we were hitting one through nine in our batting order.

“That’s great to see going into district play. We’re in the same district as North and we might see them again, so it’s good to get a win today."

North coach John Gage threw Kiara Sodini against the Jaguars, as he was resting Harrison for the postseason, which gets underway Tuesday at Blue Springs High School.

Thursday’s game did not mean anything for the Broncos as they have clinched the conference crown with an 11-2 record. They wrap up regular season play Friday with a make-up game against conference rival Lee’s Summit West.

“No comment,” Gage said after the game, before breaking into a grin, “I’m just kidding. What do you want to know?”

He then went on and explained what the loss to the Jaguars meant and what next season means to his 23-3 team.

“We scored seven runs, but I didn’t think we hit the ball that well,” Gage said. “We played OK defensively and we’ve always known they can hit the ball. One thing that did please me today was that it could have been a five-inning (mercy rule) game and we came back and scored those five runs in the fourth inning to make it a seven-inning game.”

The Jaguars led 10-1 and needed just one additional run to make it a mercy rule contest when Halle Howes hit a grand slam off South starter Bre Barchak.

Lee's Summit North's Halle Howes celebrates after slugging a grand slam in Thursday's game against Blue Springs South. Howe drove in five runs but the Broncos lost 16-7 to the Jaguars.

“You know John’s team is never going to give in,” Williams said. “That’s one reason we’ve developed such a great rivalry with them.”

South set the offensive tone early with three runs in the top of the first inning.

“I love my girls who hit behind me,” said leadoff hitter Elle Smith, who had two singles and a walk and scored twice. “McKenna and Tori were on fire today and Ella did a great job from the No. 9 hole.

Blue Springs South leadoff hitter Elle Smith slaps one of her two hits in the Jaguars' 16-7 win Thursday at Lee's Summit North,

“We know it will be a different game if we get to face them again, but it’s good to get this win and continue hitting the ball as well as we have this week.”

The Jaguars have scored 41 runs in four games this week.

“We’re really playing well right now and we’re having fun,” Lester said. “We know we have a target on our back going into district, but so does North. They won conference and have been playing great. They spread us (10-0 with Harrison on the mound) last time we played them, so we know what to expect if we play them next week.”

Blue Springs South's Bailey Brumley rounds third base past coach Kristi Williams to score a run in a 16-7 win over host Lee's Summit North Thursday.

Bradley agreed with her teammate.

“I think we have the biggest target on our back because we’re back-to-back state champions, but we know what a great team North is and they’re going to have a target on their back, too. It should be a great district next with some really good teams.”

North earned a bye as the top seed in a tough Class 5 District 7 field and will meet the winner of Tuesday’s first-round game between Blue Springs (9-15) and Fort Osage (15-11) in a 4 p.m. semifinal on Wednesday.

Blue Springs South earned the No. 2 seed and meets No. 7 Raytown (7-16) at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. Truman (19-8), the Suburban Middle Six co-leader, is the No. 3 seed and plays Lee’s Summit (11-11) at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Blue Springs South pitcher Bre Barchak follows through on a pitch in Thursday's game against Lee's Summit North. The Jaguars went on to a 16-7 win.