Ben Baier is going home.
Ben Baier is going home.
And he’s taking his red-hot Blue Springs South High School baseball team with him.
The Blue Springs South baseball coach, a 1993 graduate of Raymore-Peculiar High School, and his Jaguars will meet the 20-9 Panthers at 4 p.m. today in Class 4 sectional baseball action.
“It’s always fun to go home, but we’re going to Raymore with a purpose – to win a sectional baseball game,” said Baier, whose 14-16 Jaguars defeated favorites Warrensburg, Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit West in district play to set up today’s encounter.
“They have it all – the pitching, the hitting, the good fundamental play – so we’re going to have our work cut out for us again. But it won’t be the first time we’ll be playing a team with a better record.
“It’s like I’ve (said) many times this season: We’re playing our best ball right now. In the regular season, we’d get beat, and I’d wonder why the kids weren’t playing better baseball.
“Now, we’re playing the kind of ball I thought we should be playing all season. We’re all excited about this game.”
Raymore-Peculiar owns 8-1 and 8-3 victories over the Jaguars from regular-season play. But that’s not going to intimidate South.
“Right now, we don’t care who we play because we’re playing so well,” South first baseman Austin Holland said. “We’re playing as a team, and when you play as a team, you can really do some special things.
“I don’t think anyone thought we’d beat Blue Springs or Lee’s Summit West at district, and we did. We know how good all the teams are that are still playing at this time of the season, but we’re not going to be intimidated by any of them.
“We’ll respect them but not be afraid of them.”
Teammate D’Andre Heggie agreed.
“If you’re still playing, you must be a good team,” Heggie said. “We have respect for our opponents, but we’re not going to back down from anyone. I know that we believe in each other and our coaches, and that’s what’s important.
“We have a lot of confidence, and we have a lot of good players who are really playing well right now.”
Gary Renshaw, who was a C team coach when Baier played at Raymore-Peculiar, is now the Panthers head coach.
“Coach Renshaw and I are good friends,” Baier said. “We still talk all the time. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to beat Raymore-Peculiar. I know he’d want me to give his team our best shot – and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The Jaguars used standout starting and relief pitching, flawless defense and timely hitting to stun their critics to claim the district championship in Sedalia.
“We played three very good teams in Sedalia,” Baier said. “The kids went into that tournament believing in themselves, and that’s how we’re going to go into the game against Ray-Pec.
“We have to play good defense, because we don’t want to give them any extra outs. And we have to make good pitches. With their hitters if you make a mistake on the mound, they’re going to make you pay for it.”