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From The Mean Streets Of Mound City

by Mickey Mounds
Contributor, covering Missouri’s Bootheel and St Louis

One of the most challenging – and vital – tasks of a successful High School program is mentally-preparing youngsters for a Varsity career long before the day arrives. If you ask a school’s JV, Frosh and 8th-grade football coaches which playbook they teach and hear 3 different answers, Friday nights are likely to be a somber affair.

Creating a buzz among elementary students is also important. Pee-wees must be motivated to attend games, play Little League and hope for a chance to suit up and represent the community someday. It’s how winning traditions are built. That being said, in the case of Kentucky’s Franklin-Simpson Wildcats…they might be overdoing it just a tad.

We’re kidding. But as FSHS celebrates its 1st trip to the KHSAA State Baseball Tournament in 17 years, the club’s seniors say they’ve been preparing for Varsity since learning how to walk.

The last time Franklin-Simpson had won a District championship was in spring of 2000, less than 2 years after senior CF Jackson Caudill and his classmates were born. Caudill told the Bowling Green Daily News that the upperclassmen on the 2017 squad are all best friends since childhood, and have been working toward this goal their whole lives. “It’s pretty incredible,” Caudill confessed.

Words like “incredible” are thrown around during many a playoff run. But the resurgence of the ‘Cats more than justifies the rhetoric. Not only did regular-season nemesis Logan County have to be dispatched in May, the Blue & White faced off with talented Warren East in the Region 4 semifinal.

And boy, was it a doozy.

FSHS led 3-0 after 6 and a half innings at Nick Denes Field. But the scoreless Raiders had shown enough plate discipline that junior Wildcat ace Rylan Thomas started to tucker out. Thomas’ classmate Matthew Crittenden came on in relief, and promptly beaned a batter. That loaded the bases for Raiders’ senior power-hitter and Baylor University recruit Davion Downey.

As Simpson County held its collective breath, Downey nailed a grand-slam ball to right field. But it sailed foul. Crittenden bailed out with a walk to relieve the pressure, making the score 3-1 with only 1 out.

After an RBI sacrifice fly, another Division 1 athlete strode to the plate – Ryan Hawks, already committed to Louisville as a sophomore. Bravely, Crittenden ended the game by striking out Hawks on a keen high fastball.

Franklin-Simpson will play Pleasure Ridge Park in the “Round of 16” on Friday afternoon. PRPHS coach Bill Miller must decide whether to start Louisville commit Garrett Schmeltz on the mound or save him for a possible showdown with Johnson Central in the quarterfinals. If Miller manages cautiously, the Wildcats could be primed to take advantage in Lexington.

Franklin-SimpsonThe 2017 MSHSAA baseball playoffs were an absolute thrill-ride at times, with several unheralded teams carrying torches for St. Louis in the surprising last-day absence of Westminster.

In Class 5, Mound City’s own Fort Zumwalt West Jaguars slogged through a difficult urban schedule in March and April. But in the post-season they were almost unbeatable, prevailing in dramatic ballgames over rival Fort Zumwalt North and powerful Vianney.

In the final, the Jags took eventual-5A champ Jefferson City to extra innings before losing 2-1 when a hit batter forced in the deciding run.

In MSHSAA Class 4, Lutheran South finally ran out of steam after 5 valiant innings against the Aurora Houn’ Dawgs. The ‘Dawgs manufactured a 3-run rally in the 6th before junior Jeremiah Fisher’s 7th-inning homer to right field sealed the win and a 4A title.

The Missouri State Bears have advanced to the NCAA Super Regional, beating the Arkansas Razorbacks in a best-of-3 series in which each ballgame was decided by 1 run. “I got my pitch and didn’t miss it” said infielder Jeremy Eierman, who nailed the winning homer in Game 3. Eierman’s quote could apply to the entire MSU program, which is making hay while the sun shines.

Back in old Kentucky…McCracken County has drawn a tough lot in the KHSAA tournament, facing MaxPreps’ #1-ranked Trinity in the 1st round, and potentially #2-ranked Scott County in the quarterfinals. But the fearsome West Paducans are not concerned with the difference between 2nd and 16th place – they only want a championship, and a statement-win over the Shamrocks this Friday afternoon would send a shiver throughout the bracket.


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