May 5, 2008
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Now that the calendar shows May, our thoughts begin to
turn towards District and post season play in high
school baseball. Let's play a little back to the future
and peek at some of those teams that made the Final Four
last year and their fortunes this year. Why so many of
the same teams ? Some other nail-biters around Missouri
OK-lets'ride that "back to the future"
train in HS baseball last year and check in on their status
this season. Mixed in are some very familiar names in the
MO Baseball Finals !
The class 4 Champions of 07, Blue
Springs Wildcats are riding high again. Currently 18-3,
ranked #3 in the State poll, the Wildcats still have
southpaw Kyle Barbeck on the bump. His recent 4 hit, 2-1
victory over a talented Lee Summit North Bronco team shows
that he's the ace. His 9 strikeouts and NO recorded outs in
the outfield demonstrate his command of the game. So….some
teams have their pitching ace back….usually that's a great
start to getting back to the finals.
The CBC Cadets lost a heartbreaker,
3-2 in the semis to Blue Springs last year. The 07 edition
was very experienced — it was senior laden and senior
driven. Expectations were not real high this year with so
many youngsters scheduled to be in the starting lineup. The
Cadets have assembled a 7 game winning streak with a 14-5
record using that lineup that regularly features 2
sophomores and a Freshman in the starting lineup !
Annually, the Howell Vikings are a
offensive juggernaut. Last year, the Vikings dropped a
crushing 5-4 game in 9 innings to Howell Central. Back this
year with vengeance, Coach Tony Perkins has his 17-2 team
(only losses in back-back games by one run each game!) with
another high powered offense. Last week's 4-3 complete game
win over Ft Zumwalt West (19-4) By Zach Gronek shows that
the Vikes have a pitching ace to “run out there” in the big
The Sullivan Eagles finished 2nd in
Class 3 last year when they dropped a 2-0 thriller to Benton
(St Joseph, MO). Graduating All-Stater Monte Cooper has not
slowed down the high flying Eagles who are 15-1 this year
and ranked #2 in the State poll! Pitching aces Scott Jones
and Zach Mesey lead a staff that has only permitted 33 runs
the ENTIRE season.
What about the defending Class 3
Champs, you say ? The #1 ranked Benton Cardinals are
15-2 again. In a recent 18-6 thrashing of a good Chillicothe
Hornet team (17-6), the Cards blasted 4 home runs !
Looks like a rematch in Class 3 could pit the stingy Eagles
of Sullivan and the prolific bats of Benton again this year.
The defending Class 2 Champs, the Blair
Oaks Falcons returned a veteran squad this year. To no ones
surprise, the Falcons are 12-3 again. Stepping up to play
larger schools occasionally, the Falcons went 3-0 last week
and topped it off with 13 hits as they blanked Centralia
11-0. On a roll, this team will "be there" again.
Westminster Christian made the Class 3
Finals the last two years without yet reaching the highest
plateau on the trophy presentation. While two All-State
players graduated, the Turners (Jacob & Ben) return for
theWildcats. With their tons of experience and talent,
expect this team to compete when District Play opens up.
Why so many the same teams ?
There are several
possible reasons. In almost all cases, these programs are
led by terrific coaches. These coaches know their stuff and
don't accept inferior play on the mound, in the batters' box
or on the bases at any point of the season.
One reason might
be that a team returns a solid corp of players. This doesn't
always guarantee success. It happens to so many Seniors that
they load themselves up with such high expectations that
they implode when the season begins slowly. However, most
talented, experienced teams "get it together" by district
might be that a tradition has been established at the school
(usually by the same coach). This tradition demands that
players perform the "little" things necessary to win-even if
it means sacrificing some personal records. Once a
program reaches this level, it could become a state
powerhouse for a long period of time.
could be the development of two or three very strong
pitchers. This is all that a team really needs to advance.
Coupled with a tight defense, opportunistic offense and a
bit of speed, this type of team can surprise many
observers. Last year, Holt High fit this mold perfectly as
they reached the finals (and they could do it again !)
Hillcrest southpaw Chris Barratt could be just this type of
hurler this year.
way to do it is a team that can defend, pitch, run and bunt
can go a long way. Our interview with Legend Byron Hagler
talks about this type of play.
Other factors are
the elimination of injuries at District and post-season
time. Even small, yet nagging muscle pulls of one key
player, can downgrade the effectiveness of an entire team.
Most STATE teams
do possess at least one genuine gifted hitter. It seems that
the semifinal and championship games seem to find this
hitter at the plate at key spots of the game. If he
delivers, the team wins. If he fails, it's a long ride
Next week we'll
look at some teams that are sparkling on the diamond and
that could advance a long way.
For the Rest of the Story....Page 2