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Confidence is key for SEMO Conference Pitcher of the Year Jackson’s John Paul Sauer

Jackson junior pitcher John Paul Sauer, who was named the 2023 SEMO Conference Pitcher of the Year, has a record of 7-1 with 83 strikeouts and a 0.60 earned run average this spring. Photo by Nick McNeal

Prior to this season, Jackson baseball junior pitcher John Paul Sauer verbally committed to Tulane to continue his career on the mound at the next level.

Sauer will follow in the footsteps of the nine Indian seniors on this year’s squad who have already signed on to play college baseball. All of these seniors have more than enough faith in John Paul to pitch “the big game.”

In doing so, Sauer led Jackson to win its first district championship since 2018 as well as back-to-back SEMO Conference Tournament titles. John Paul has produced an overall record of 7-1 while striking out 83 batters and recording an earned run average of 0.60 through 10 starts on the mound.

The trust of this senior class and all of his teammates to start in “the big game” means the world to Sauer, especially when they have another ace pitcher in Missouri State signee Caden Bogenpohl. Bogenpohl is undefeated this season at 9-0 with a team-high 93 strikeouts and a 1.94 ERA.

“We are 1A and 1B — he pushes me to be the best I can be, and I hope I do the same for him,” Sauer said. “To have him — a mid 90s arm — does nothing but helps us. He had 18 strikeouts and two home runs versus Oakville in the district semifinals, and that’s the best high school baseball game I’ve ever seen out of a kid.”

Another reason why the faith Sauer’s teammates have in him fuels his confidence is because John Paul said that he was the biggest reason why the Indians had their 2022 season end in the district semifinals. While Sauer still had a successful sophomore campaign despite that loss, he feels like the biggest difference between this year and last is his confidence.

“I felt like I didn’t perform as well as the team needed me to last year,” he said. “Then I committed to Tulane and this year I was like, ‘Do I belong? Am I on the status of a Division-I recruit here?’ The confidence was the main thing — this pitch is either going to go by the batter or one of my defensive guys is going to make a great play.”

Even though both Sauer and Bogenpohl have tremendous skill on the mound, another key factor for both of their success has been Saint Louis signee senior catcher Baden Hackworth. John Paul said that even though Hackworth is only one grade above him, he’s actually like a teacher for him.

“While catching for both of us, sometimes we can be a really trying for Baden,” Sauer laughed. “But he keeps us under control and tells us when to not talk back to him — he’s like my teacher. I’m glad to have him behind the plate.”

Funny enough, this senior class and Sauer’s class were the very first two Jackson Tribe baseball teams. John Paul said there were questions if they could all work as a travel team, but they’ve more than proven they could be as the Indians currently sit with a program-record 32 wins after sweeping the conference and winning districts for the first time in four years.

“These seniors have been the leaders, and there are multiple three-year starters on this team,” Sauer said. “They know the expectations and what they want out of themselves and me and the other juniors.”

Besides from pitching at the Division-I level, Sauer was intrigued by Tulane because his cousin went to med school there, which is the same field he wants to pursue as well.

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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