With camera's flashing and all eyes on his every move, Gardner Edgerton OF Bubba Starling did not disappoint Thursday, going 1-4 with a home run and two RBI as Gardner-Edgerton picked up a 7-5 win over Blue Valley West in both teams last tuneup before Kansas Regional Playoffs begin next week.
Starling struck out looking his in his first at-bat in the bottom of the first, but Gardner-Edgerton managed a pair of runs to take an early 2-0 lead. Blue Valley West came back with a run of its own in the bottom half and the score remained 2-1 until Starling next at bat in the 3rd.
Starling saw two pitches before hitting a sky high pop fly that was caught in foul territory by BV West SS Skyler Geissinger, who showed well at the plate as well as at SS for the Jaguars.
Starling lead off the 5th inning with the score still 2-1, and found a fastball to his liking, turning on the pitch and ripping a hard ground ball to 3B. Starling reached on a throwing error on the play, moving all the way up to 3rd base. His home to first time was 4.3, although he did not make a clean exit from the box, and according to scouts in attendance has consistently posted times in the 4.2s.
Gardner-Edgerton scored three runs in the 5th on a trio of BV West errors to take a 5-1 lead. Blue Valley West came back with two runs in the bottom half.
With the score 5-3 in the 6th, freshman C TJ Martin singled, setting the stage for Starling's 4th at-bat. After working the count to 2-0, he crushed a fastball for long home run over the 375 sign in left-center field. On the swing he showed an easy swing with great bat speed, and the ball jumped off his bat.
Blue Valley West rallied for two runs in the bottom of the 7th to make it a 7-3 final.
When asked about his at-bats on the day, Starling was quick to mention the improvements that he needed to make.
"I've really been working on getting by front foot down, and staying back. Sometimes I still get too far out on my front foot," he said.
While he knows that the next game could be his last in a Trailblazer uniform he sees the team coming at the right time, just as playoffs begin.
"We have a lot of momentum, we've won three in a row. I'm definitely not ready for this to end."
Thursday’s game between Gardner-Edgerton and Blue Valley West will be the last regular season game that Bubba Starling will play in a Trailblazer jersey.
The three-sport star has led the football, basketball, and now baseball team with lots of fanfare.
While Starling starred on the basketball court, his future looks to be on either the gridiron or baseball diamond as he dual committed to the University of Nebraska in February.
There is a lot of speculation as to whether Starling will end up in Lincoln, as he is projected by many to be a top 10 pick in the MLB Draft on June 6, with Perfect Game National Director of Scouting David Rawnsley projecting the hometown Kansas City Royals to take him with the 5th pick in his latest mock draft.
While Starling has not commented on what sport his future may be in, his father Jimbo was quoted in the Husker Extra saying, “There’s no decision to be made right now. He’s going to Nebraska to play football.”
MLB scouts have flocked to the Kansas City suburb all spring season, with dozens attending every game including some GMs, and have not been disappointed For the season Starling is hitting .526 with three doubles, a triple, three home runs, and seven RBI, even as he is pitched around.
“There are times he will go through a full game without seeing a ball in the strike zone,” says Trailblazer head coach Jerald Van Rheen. “And some just put him on.”
The only thing that has been able to slow Starling down this spring is a nagging quad injury that sidelined him for three and a half weeks in April. Starling returned April 28 with two home runs, a double, two stolen bases, and a walk in a double-header sweep of Blue Valley Southwest.
Starling brings everything a scout could ask for to the table, starting with a strong, 6’4, 180 pound frame that profiles in center field. He is a superior athlete and ran the fastest 60 yard dash time in last year’s Area Code Games in August.
His arm strength is an asset, not surprising for a Division one quarterback recruit, and he was up to 92 mph on the mound at the Area Code Games, showing easy velocity and a compact quick arm. He also showed hard spin on a 78 mph slider.
Starling has not pitched this season; Van Rheen described it as a “joint decision,” adding, “I think we are a better team with him in center field.”
Starling’s athleticism and arm combined with his potential at the plate mean most scouts see him as an outfielder at the next level. Starling has a sound, balanced hitting approach at the plate, and gets good leverage to produce plus bat speed. He has big-time power projection with strength gain and slight mechanical changes, but he is already short to the ball, and loose and extended out front in his finish.
The questions from friends and classmates about what his future may be and the pressure of performing in front of scouts has not slowed Starling down.
“He is a mature kid, and has really been unflappable,” says Van Rheen. “He has handled it as well as anyone could.
Starling’s first goal will be to lead the Trailblazers deep into the postseason. Thursday’s game will be the last game for Gardner-Edgerton before regional playoffs. They begin next week with their first action either Monday or Wednesday depending on playoff seeding.
Perfect Game High School will be at Blue Valley West High School at 5 pm Central for live coverage of the Gardner-Edgerton/Blue Valley West matchup.
PG High School will provide live twitter coverage of the game, as well as a recap of the game with video of Starling.
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