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Jackson baseball wins third-straight SEMO Conference Championship

Jackson baseball’s sophomore catcher Drew Parsons, left, and senior pitcher John-Paul Sauer have a discussion at the mound during the 2024 SEMO Conference Tournament last week at Capaha Field. Photo by Reagan Howe

The Jackson Indians baseball team (21-7) set the stage for its third consecutive SEMO Conference Tournament Championship victory in a matchup against the No. 6 seed Dexter Bearcats (11-9) on April 30 at Capaha Park.

After seven well-fought innings, the Indians closed the game, outscoring their opponent 5-0 and reclaiming the title of conference champions.

Jackson was given the No. 1 seed heading into the tournament, and with high expectations it did nothing if not meet them. The Indians produced five runs off of eleven hits with zero strikeouts throughout their six innings at the plate.

Paving the way for the Indians was junior first baseman Drew Weber, who got a hit off of all three of his at-bats in the contest with a triple, double and single, respectively.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Weber produced Jackson’s final run on a single hit to left field that brought home senior designated hitter Owen Osborne.

Jackson had a big second inning to bring the score up 3-0 after gaining runs batted in by junior left fielder Cooper Rhodes, sophomore third baseman Adler Flinn and sophomore catcher Drew Parsons.

Indians head coach Josh Roach was pleased with his team’s performance in the championship game, saying, “We did a great job of just playing team baseball. We had some sacrifice flies and laid down a few bunts and just got the job done with runners in scoring position.”

In the tournament championship game, the Indians were led on the mound by senior pitcher John-Paul Sauer. Sauer struck out 12 batters and only allowed one hit in his six-inning effort.

The stellar pitcher gave all of his graces to his infield, noting, “Each hit someone was there to catch it, and Drew Parson’s did an awesome job of staying behind my pitches.”

Remarkably, in all three of Jackson’s consecutive conference championship games, Sauer has been in the starting lineup. Of those three years, this is his third year being named to the all-tournament team, and his second year as the SEMO Conference Tournament MVP.

“John-Paul was on the mark today,” Coach Roach said. “He located all of his pitches really well, and when he’s doing that with his velocity, it usually means it’s going to be a long day for the other team.”

This season has been filled with hurdles for the Indians ace as Sauer spent his offseason recovering from an ACL tear that took place prior to his fall football season.

“It’s been a long journey, they say ACL tears can take nine to 12 months to heal, but by the sixth month, my knee felt fine and I was ready to go,” Sauer said. “It still has taken time to get my arm fully developed and to get back to pitching the way I want to.”

Sauer was relieved in the final inning by sophomore pitcher Carter Shipman. Shipman closed out the game throwing two strikeouts of the three batters he faced.

“That’s the thing I love about this team — we have a deep rotation this year where more guys are able to step in like Carter did in the last inning, who can just come in and throw strikes,” Coach Roach said.

Since Jackson was placed at the top of the bracket, the Indians first faced off against the No. 8 seeded Sikeston Bulldogs (4-17) in the first round of the tournament.

Due to a scoring run in the second inning led by a two-run homer from junior right fielder Peyton Kight, the Indians were able to close out the game by a score of 11-1. Freshman pitcher Grant Brown finished out the game pitching one inning, striking out one batter and allowing no runs.

In the semifinal round, the Indians saw the likes of the No. 4 seed Kennett Indians (11-14). Jackson proved to be the higher seed finishing out the game with a 6-2 victory over Kennett.

The Indians lit up the scoreboard early in the game when Osborne brought in senior second baseman Waylon Hale on a sacrifice play. The game was won at the mound by senior pitcher Adrian Fox, who struck out seven batters over his four innings pitched.

Rhodes produced two hits from three at-bats in the victory while gaining one stolen base, leading him to be named to the SEMO Conference All-Tournament Team as well. Rhodes has most recently broken the Indians record for most stolen bases in a career beating the previous record of 56.

Jackson’s crosstown rivals the Notre Dame Bulldogs (13-12) were given the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament. The Bulldogs claim-ed fifth place after losing in the first round with an upset to Dexter. Notre Dame went on to win the next two rounds of the tournament.

Bulldogs junior standout Reid Morgan proved to be the difference between winning and losing in Notre Dame’s final tournament game. Morgan pitched five of Notre Dame’s six innings, striking out four batters and only allowing one run.

Morgan got things done on defense and offense as he was able to produce four RBIs from his four at-bats. Due to his efforts throughout the tournament, he was named to the SEMO Conference All-Tournament Team, alongside Sauer and Rhodes.

The Indians will continue their season as they host the Poplar Bluff Mules (18-10) tomorrow evening and will host the De Soto Dragons (13-11) on Friday to wrap up their regular season games. District play for Class 6 District 1 will start May 15th.

Notre Dame finished their season hosting the Valle Catholic Warriors (29-2) and the Festus Tigers (22-6) in a doubleheader on Monday. The Bulldogs will play their first postseason game in the semifinals May 13 for a chance in the Class 3 District 2 championship game.

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