St. James baseball ready to defend Butch Foster Classic tourney title
St. James Academy’s baseball team has grown awfully comfortable inside CommunityAmerica Ballpark during the past few years.
The Thunder have spent the past two seasons competing in the Butch Foster Memorial Baseball Classic at the Kansas City T-Bones’ home stadium. They placed second at the 2008 tournament, falling to Spring Hill in the finals by a 1-0 score. The bounced back with a 13-3 victory against Spring Hill in the 2009 title game.
St. James will make its third straight trip to the tournament starting Thursday, and coach Brian Bucklin said his squad is excited to play in a stadium where it has had so much success.
“We’ve always had pretty good memories playing there. We’ve won five out of six games we’ve ever played there,” Bucklin said.
St. James always front-loads its schedule with tough teams from larger classifications early in the season. That strategy has led to the team taking its lumps early in the season, and this year was no different. The Thunder are 5-4 with losses to Lawrence Free State, Blue Valley Northwest, Rockhurst (Mo.) and Eudora. The Butch Foster Classic has helped springboard the second half of the Thunder’s season each of the past two years, and they’re hoping that will be the case again this time as they try to win three games in three days.
“This is kind of the turning point of our season where we start preparing ourselves for the (postseason) tournament run,” Bucklin said. “We always talk about how to win at regionals you’ve got to win three games in three days, and obviously once you get to state you’ve got to win three games in two days.”
Interestingly, CommunityAmerica Ballpark will be the site of this year’s Class 4A regional tournament, so the Thunder hope to use the Butch Foster Classic to familiarize themselves with a field that they’ll see again in the postseason.
“You could argue that we get our best crowds out there,” Bucklin said. “Our community comes out and supports us when we’re out there. It’s fun. You get to play in front of people in a nice ballpark and hopefully win. Hopefully we can have some success this weekend and carry it on once we get to regional time.”
St. James opens the tournament at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against Perry-Lecompton.