On the surface, it appeared that the 2017 season would see the Fort Osage baseball team go into rebuild mode.
The Indians lost 15 seniors to graduation last year. That’s right, 15.
That’s a lot of holes to fill. But as Fort’s two returning lettermen showed Saturday against Blue Springs South, there is some promise in this young squad.
Zane Barr dazzled on the mound and catcher Spencer Patrick came up with a big two-run double in the Indians’ 3-1 win over the Jaguars in the season opener at Blue Springs South High School.
Barr was dominant in his first game as Fort’s ace. He had a no-hitter through 5 1/3 innings and allowed just one hit, one run and struck out 10 to pick up the win.
He mixed his pitches well, using a fastball, changeup and a nasty slider that fooled many South hitters. Barr was primarily a relief pitcher last season but will be relied on more this year to eat up some innings as a starter.
“He’s a special kid for sure,” Patrick said. “He’s a good guy and is one of our team leaders for sure. We started out with the fastball and once they started timing the fastball up, we took a little off of it with the curve off the table a little bit.”
Fort Osage coach Chris Walker was really impressed with Barr’s command.
“He was spot on,” Walker said. “He settled down after he was a little off in the first. For him to come out and throw 96 pitches and to dominate the way he did, was impressive.”
Although Barr was up there in his pitch count and the Missouri State High School Activities Association is limiting juniors and seniors to just 105 pitches per game, he was sent out to pitch the sixth. Barr got a groundout, walked Mark Walker before Derek Mammen broke up the no-hitter by blasting an RBI triple to center field. Steven Orwick came in to pitch 1 2/3 scoreless innings to pick up the save.
“I wanted him to face the top and heart of the order,” Walker said. “Then bring in the sophomore Orwick to face the lower part of the order. He got a guy on, then gave up the hit.”
Barr wasn’t completely satisfied with his performance at the beginning of the game but was happy with the end result.
“I started out slow in the first couple of innings because my fastball command was off,” he said. “After that I started finding my zone and got my slider working, too. If I ever got in trouble, I went to the slider and it worked well.”
And he got through 5 1/3 innings without giving up a hit despite one of his teammates breaking an unwritten rule in baseball.
“One of my teammates told me I had a no-hitter in the fourth inning, then everyone reminded him that he needed to stay quiet about that,” Barr said. “I will go and take the blame (for losing the no-hitter).”
But it was still good enough for the win. Patrick helped that cause when he blasted a two-out, two-run double to center in the first for a 2-0 lead. Fort got an insurance run in the top of the sixth when Ben Long got caught in a rundown between first and second base long enough for Blake Murphy to score. That play was not by design either.
“Ben had the whereabouts to stay in the rundown as long as he did so we could score. That was big,” Walker said.
South had just four base runners in the game and struggled to get anything going at the plate.
“We struggled at the plate, we have a lot of new and young guys,” South coach Ben Baier said. “We have a lot of things we have to work on including adapting to the find of pitching you’re going to see at the varsity level. I have confidence that we will. Today is a beginning point.”
Matt Cook started the game for the Jaguars and pitched three innings and allowed two runs on two hits and struck out six.
BLUE SPRINGS SOUTH 9, PARK HILL SOUTH 0: The Jaguars bounced back thanks to the performance of Andrew Simms, who just gave up one hit in five innings, walked one and struck out four in a non-conference win over the Panthers in their second game Saturday.
John Brady struck out the side in the sixth inning and Cale Connors pitched a scoreless seventh inning for the Jags. At the dish, Allante Hall was 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored, Mammen was 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored, Jackson Rehkow and John Herrman each had one hit, a run scored and an RBI.
PARK HILL SOUTH 5, FORT OSAGE 1: In its second game of the day Fort couldn’t get the bats going in a loss to the Panthers Saturday.
Josh Merithew took the loss for the Indians on the mound. Nick Dye was 2-for-3 with a double and a single and Von Young scored the team’s only run in the second.
South’s Jake Evans pitched a complete game and struck out 10.