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Jackson baseball’s all-state pitcher John-Paul Sauer signs with Tulane

Last Thursday, Jackson senior John-Paul Sauer signed a national letter of intent with Tulane to continue his baseball career. Pictured from left to right: Gary Peters (uncle), John-Paul Sauer and Becky Peters (aunt). Photo by Nick McNeal

Last Thursday, Jackson senior John-Paul Sauer officially signed to be a Division-I pitcher at Tulane following a historic junior campaign with the Indians baseball team in 2023.

Signing with Tulane was a cultivation of everything Sauer has overcome to get to this moment and a promise he made to his younger self.

“It’s always been a childhood dream to go and play Division-I sports, and I’m getting to do it,” John-Paul said. “It’s a surreal moment. I just wanted to go play college sports, and I didn’t know if that was possible or not when I was in eighth grade. But once schools started calling, I realized, ‘Oh, I’ll be able to do this.’ I was just like, ‘OK, I’m lucky to be in this spot,’ but we had to keep working. I found the right school in Tulane.”

Growing up, Sauer said he played “everywhere” and started doing so when he was around five or six-years-old, joining Jackson Tribe at seven. Outside of pitcher, John-Paul has been at third base, catcher and left field.

“I always knew pitching was the thing I was best at,” Sauer said. “I struggled in the beginning, but as we’ve gone on, I’ve learned some things that have helped me. I enjoy being on the mound even if the eyes are all on me. I’ll get nervous sometimes — meaning that I care — but it’s a place that knowing what’s the worst that can happen if I don’t do well. I have the confidence to go out there, and I know the defense behind me is going to do a great job.”

Sauer committed to the Green Wave prior to his junior campaign, where he broke Jackson’s single-season earned runs record with a .61 ERA. This bested the mark left by 2018 graduate Tyler Martin.

Along with that, John-Paul recorded the second-most strikeouts in Indians baseball history with 93 Ks and also registered eight wins on the mound.

Sauer was rightfully one of the five Jackson players to earn Class 6 All-State honors and was named to the first team along with 2023 graduates Caden Bogenpohl, Baden Hackworth and current junior Cooper Rhodes. Like Sauer will be, both Bogenpohl and Hackworth are currently D-I baseball players at Missouri State and Saint Louis, respectively.

Last spring, these Indians led Jackson to its first-ever state final four appearance as the team took third overall in Class 6. John-Paul, who was also named the 2023 SEMO Conference Pitcher of the Year, is back in his final season as the Indians ace.

“The people I’ve been around this year and last year — they may be different players, but they are all very competitive,” Sauer said. “Being around people who want to win and are working hard makes it easy to enjoy baseball and be a great teammate.”

The Indians are deep at pitcher once again outside of Sauer as Jackson also has future college arms like Mineral Area College signee Carson McDaniel.

“Carson stepped up as our No. 1 pitcher while I was gone, and it takes a lot of pressure off me now that we have another guy who can dominate every game he throws,” John-Paul said. “Brynson Garcia is our main reliever — this year if there’s an important game, he’s the first guy in.”

It wasn’t an easy start for him, though, as he had to miss the first few games upon recovering from an ACL tear he suffered over the summer while training for football. Sauer wasn’t the only Jackson football player to have a season-ending injury as fellow senior pitcher Adrian Fox suffered one in the district playoffs.

After playing with Sauer one last time this spring on the Indians baseball team, he will continue his athletic career as a quarterback for Southeast Missouri State’s football team next fall.

“We’re glad to get the last little bit of pitching out of him before he goes and plays Division-I football,” John-Paul said. “Right when his injury happened to him, I saw his face and thought, ‘I had that same look three months ago,’ knowing that your season is probably done. We’ve always been very good friends, and it was kind of my job to sit him down and help him understand that everything happens for a reason.

“‘Whatever you’re set out to do, it’s still going to happen even though you didn’t get to play your last game.’ Of course when I tore my ACL, he was the first one to come check on me and was over at my house frequently to make sure I was all right.”

Luckily for Jackson, the future Tulane pitcher is back to 100% in hopes of leading the Indians to another historic postseason run.

“Having sports taken away from me for part of my senior year made me realize how lucky I am to do it in the first place,” Sauer said. “Coming back and starting to ramp up with my pitching is probably the most fun I’ve had playing baseball.

“Luckily, I’ve been able to have [high] velocity [with my pitches this year]. It’ll hopefully get better, but my main worry is having control and getting out of innings quickly. I want to have 10 or 11-pitch innings, so I can throw complete games. That’s what I enjoy the most — being able to throw fast ball, breaking ball or a changeup for a strike.”

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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