A tantalizing pitchers’ duel between Blue Springs South junior Reece Eddins and Rockhurst senior Joe Huber thrilled a crowd of 750 Tuesday evening in a Missouri Class 5 sectional baseball game at Missouri 3&2.
By DAVID BOYCE
Special to The Star
But the hero was Blue Springs South junior Zac Slaven, who delivered a two-out, pinch-hit single in the bottom of the eighth that gave the Jaguars a 2-1 victory.
Slaven said the feeling was unbelievable. For his clutch line drive up the middle, Slaven was treated to a shower when his teammates dumped a bucket of water on him.
“It was a little nerve-racking, but I had confidence I could help my team win a game,” Slaven said. “I was waiting for him to throw a fastball. He was throwing fastballs all game. I was sitting on it.”
Blue Springs South, 14-7, advances to Thursday’s quarterfinals against Staley.
Eddins kept things going in the eighth with a two-out single, but it was on the mound where he excelled. He struck out nine and was tough the few times Rockhurst had runners in scoring position.
“It is was fun, but there was a lot of pressure on your shoulders,” Eddins said. “You’ve got to feel confident also, and know you can get the win for your team.
The Hawklets struck first in the top of the third. It started with a one-out single by Billy Maloney. Jack Benninghoff singled, and Victor Brancato drove in Maloney with another single.
A couple of pitches later, Benninghoff stole second, putting runners on second and third with one out.
Rockhurst was poised for a big inning, but Eddins didn’t allow it to happen. He struck out the next two batters and didn’t allow another runner to reach base over the next four innings.
“I was just trying to keep them off-balance,” Eddins said. “I was throwing curveballs on fastball counts. I was trying to throw strikes, keep it low and let the defense make the plays.”
Huber was just as tough. He wiggled out of a jam in the bottom of the fourth when Taylor Sprague led off with a walk and Dallas Herrmann singled.
Blue Springs South tied the game in the next inning on a one-out, RBI double by Braden Younkin.
Huber showed grit in the bottom of the seventh with the season on the line. The Jaguars put runners on first and third with one out. Third baseman Connor Heying made a great play on a hard grounder by Nic Mertes, and Huber retired the next hitter on a foul pop-up.
Rockhurst finally got on base again in the eighth when Brancato led off with a bunt single and raced around to third on a throwing error. It was the Hawklets’ first base runner since the third.
Eddins quickly regained his form and left Brancato stranded at third.
“That is a tough thing to overcome, but you can’t try to do too much,” Eddins said. “You let your defense help you out. You can’t do it all yourself.”