Moore looking to change the baseball culture at Climax Springs after Cougars end losing streak

Michael Losch
Lake Sun Leader
Climax Springs junior pitcher Owen Plott.

Every foundation or turning point must start somewhere. 

For the baseball program at Climax Springs, a small Class 1 school in the Lake of the Ozarks area, Head Coach Jacob Moore is hoping one day that he can point to April 9, 2021 as the moment when the narrative changed. The Cougars played a game against Hermitage that day in the Wheatland Tournament and although rain ended things a little early after five innings, it was the Cougars who came out on top in a 1-0 win that will officially go down as such in the record books. 

The win was the program’s first since March 30, 2015, when Climax Springs edged Stover 5-4 according to MSHSAA records, and it officially ended a losing streak of 78 games spanning 2,223 days.

Of course, no baseball program in the state got to play a game in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Moore, who is in his first season in charge of the program, was not present for many of those previous losses along with many of his players. In fact, there are just six players on the roster who even had the opportunity to play a high school game before this season while nine underclassmen are playing high school ball for the first time. 

But, there is something to having the opportunity to ‘flip the script’ and Moore’s club decided to do so that day.

“When they called the game I was pretty excited and told them we won the game. They jumped up and got really excited and Mr. (Josh) Foulk got really excited,” Moore said of his assistant as he recalled that day. “I got excited, but I didn’t want anyone to know because I’d like to build a program where one win doesn’t matter. After about six or seven years of not winning a game, winning one is a pretty big deal for all the kids. Every kid I have has never won a high school baseball game before, they’ve never won any baseball game. 

“That is a pretty big deal, but at the same time I’m trying to build towards more and make us competitive against the good teams.” 

Well, that goal takes a little confidence or belief and Moore said before the game against Hermitage, he reminded his players what they were capable of. The Cougars had lost to the Hornets 19-15 earlier that season, but it was a new day and a new opportunity.

“I said if we do everything the right way, we’ll come away with the win. We were struggling to hit the ball, which we’ve done all year, but our defense has picked up a lot since the beginning of the year and we are able to compete against some teams that also struggle with hitting a bit,” Moore noted. “The biggest thing I told them was have fun and play your game. 

‘We have a shot to win this one so don’t get nervous. I just need you to play the way you can and we’ll be successful,’” the coach recalled of his message to the club. 

Well, the message seemed to have gotten through. 

Junior Owen Plott pitched all five innings and gave up five hits and a walk while striking out seven, senior Elias Duncan delivered a crucial RBI single in the fourth inning and it proved to be enough for the Cougars, despite racking up just three hits offensively. 

“I felt pretty comfortable out there, I wasn’t too nervous. The rain was a problem, but other than that I felt good,” Plott said of his day on the mound. “Just stayed as calm as possible and comfortable out there.” 

A few more hits may have helped, but Moore said some progress has been made in that department as well.

“We are putting the bat on the ball a lot better than we have been. We are just not finding the gaps in the defense like other teams find against us,” the coach stated.

Moore said he and his players would have liked to finish the final two innings if the weather didn’t bring things to a halt, but the win still counts and the Cougars are in search of that next one as the rest of the spring season winds down. Now, it is about finding a way to take that next step and not regress from any progress that was made.

“They biggest thing we talk about every day is having a positive attitude because losing sucks and you can’t get around the fact you want to win every game,” Moore said. “We talk about having a good attitude and taking something away from the game, no matter how bad it is.”

And, it is not exactly as if this is how things have always been at the Class 1 school down Highway 7. A pair of banners currently hang in the gym honoring the 1993 team that won a share of a conference title while another points to a runner-up finish in the conference race during the 1996 season. A baseball coach that was introduced into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2015, longtime Hillcrest and Licking coach Byron Hagler, got his start there. He went on to become the second winningest high school coach in state history with a record of 577-200.

Even if Climax Springs (1-16) does not win another game this season, that losing streak was ended.

“It felt pretty good,” Plott said of the win, “but I’d like to get a couple more. Just play our best and do what we can, that’s all we can do.”

As Moore finishes out his first season leading the Cougars, he continues to keep the big picture in mind as he looks to fit all the puzzle pieces of his program together. He knows he has a group that is hungry and experience and some continuity will be the biggest keys going forward that determines the direction this program will go.

“I think we are building something. There are a lot of other places who have told me we are doing a good job,” the coach said. “It is just having the kids. My kids, they want to be good I feel like. So, in practice they try really hard and we don’t translate it very well to games because of the inexperience we have. 

“It is just coming in every day and learning is something we are working on every day.”