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Jackson baseball wins conference tournament for second year in a row

The Jackson baseball team celebrates after beating Kennett 3-0 for the 2023 SEMO Conference Tournament Championship on May 1 at Capaha Field. Photo by Nick McNeal

Every day has proven to be nearly a perfect one for Jackson baseball fans, but May 1 was quite the night. The Indians (25-6) won the SEMO Conference Tournament Championship for the second year in a row by sweeping the Kennett Indians (17-8) with a score of 3-0 through seven innings.

Jackson was led by junior pitcher John Paul Sauer, who threw a complete game shutout to claim the victory. Sauer faced 24 batters and only gave up one hit and allowed zero runs.

Due to the efforts of Sauer throughout the tournament and in the championship game, he became the Second Annual Kyle Smith MVP.

Offensively, the Indians figured out what to do in order to score. In the sixth inning, senior catcher Baden Hacksworth was intentionally walked after hitting two doubles in previous innings.

It’s no surprise teams would intentionally walk Hackworth as he has had quite the season at the plate. Baden broke Jackson’s record of single-season runs batted in and leads the team with an incredible total of 43 RBIs so far in the season. “It’s a good feeling to know that they don’t want to face you again,” Hackworth said on the topic of intentional walks.

While Hackworth was walked, senior right fielder Caden Bogenpohl advanced to second. With two runners on base, senior left fielder Steven Schneider hit a triple, bringing both runners home to give the Indians a 2-0 lead.

In the same inning, senior second baseman Jackson Wyatt doubled on a hit to center field to bring home senior first baseman Landon Watkins. In the final inning, the Indians allowed zero runs as Sauer struck out two batters to finish out the night.

As the No. 1 seed, Jackson entered the tournament with high expectations. With a large margin win of 15-0 over No. 8 seed Sikeston (5-15) in the first round of the tournament, the Indians had wind beneath their wings in the semifinals and clinched a 3-2 win over No. 4 Notre Dame (11-9-1).

The game played out with both teams being tied at the bottom of the fifth inning. However, senior shortstop Henley Parker hit a triple on his third at-bat, bringing home senior center fielder Grant Dotson.

Parker also hit a single allowing Wyatt to score in the third inning of the Indians victory over the Bulldogs.

The Indians were able to hold the Bulldogs in the following innings the same way they held the Kennett Indians Monday night. The team thrives on the ability to stay consistent in games with fewer runs.

“Even though tonight’s game was slower, we were still able to keep the energy up the whole time,” Schneider said of the Championship game.

In the crowd, one could tell the Indians spirits were up all game. “It’s a big thing for us to keep the energy up in the dugout — we feel like it helps us do better,” Schneider said.

The fans had a huge impact on the game as well as the stadium was packed for the championship game. “With the big fan base we had tonight, there were probably two empty seats in the whole place and you can feel the atmosphere buzzing. Almost like a Cardinals playoff game,” Hackworth said.

Hackworth had an incredible performance behind the plate as well as at it. Not only did he record two doubles in the championship game but also had yet another remarkable performance as catcher.

Hackworth has an impressive stat of only one catching error in the Indians 31 games but gives all the credit to the pitching efforts of his teammates. Baden said, “The pitchers I catch for like John Paul, Bogey [Bogenpohl], and even Carson McDaniel — all of those guys hit their spots. With those guys you know exactly where the ball is because it’s going to your glove every time.”

Alongside MVP Sauer, Bogenpohl also received honors as he was named to the SEMO Conference All-Tournament Team. In the Indians first game of the tournament against Sikeston, Bogenpohl racked up a game-high of four RBIs and scored two runs himself.

Bogenpohl has decided he will play over the summer with the Cape Catfish before continuing his baseball career at Missouri State. Along with Bogenpohl, senior third baseman Quinton Borders will also play for the Catfish over the summer and then go on to play at Crowder Community College.

With such a successful season, the Indians are not planning on stopping anytime soon. When asked about goals going forward Schneider said, “With this out of the way, obviously we are going to take this game by game, but we’re looking for a district championship, then after that a state title.”

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