Raymore-Peculiar baseball coach Gary Renshaw has few concerns about his pitching or his defense. He’s just waiting for the bats to come around.
“I think our team average going into the day was .172,” Renshaw said after a game last week. “We had a lot of guys that were in a slump.”
Renshaw saw some hopeful signs for the Panthers’ offense March 28 against Lee’s Summit North. On a cold and rainy afternoon, Ray-Pec cranked out 13 hits during a 12-5 victory in what would be their last game for more than a week.
Ray-Pec still got off to a 5-3 start despite the struggling bats, but Renshaw knew that wasn’t sustainable without more offense, so he was pleased to see eight Panthers collect hits, some for the first time this season.
They also tallied 11 walks off of three Lee’s Summit North pitchers, which Renshaw saw as a double-edged sword. Patience at the plate is a virtue, but Renshaw wanted to see more fire.
“At one time, we had played 28 innings and had 28 walks,” Renshaw said, “so we’re pretty disciplined. Sometimes, I think we were too disciplined, letting some good pitches go by, so we worked on being aggressive at the plate. I felt like tonight we had some pretty good at-bats.”
First baseman Justin Masters has been swinging the bat well since the start of the season, and he had three hits and two RBIs in four at-bats. Derek Beauchamp and Jacob Elliott had two hits, while Ashton Paith had two hits with three RBIs.
But the biggest hit of the game came from third baseman Zach Gwynne, who crushed a three-run homer during a four-run first inning that included 10 Panthers at-bats. When North closed within 4-3 in the top of the third, Ray-Pec responded with four runs on four hits in the bottom of the inning.
The Panthers got two more runs in the fourth and single runs in the fifth and sixth for its first double-digit hit total of the season. It was also the more runs the Panthers had scored since an 8-7 win versus Kearney in their second game March 17.
“I thought pitching would be our strong point this year, just because of the guys we had coming back,” Renshaw said. “But if we can put that offense with our pitching, we can be pretty scary.”
Twins Derek and Jake Beauchamp are back to lead Ray-Pec’s veteran rotation. Masters also will be counted on for innings along with Brandon Carvan. Renshaw also plans to use Gwynne and Elliott as relievers.
Masters has already turned in one impressive outing this season. During a 1-0 victory against Blue Springs on March 24, he gave up just four hits and a walk with five strikeouts in six innings. Elliott threw one perfect inning for the save.
“Both of (the Beauchamps) were probably my top two pitchers last year and they’re right up there again this year,” Renshaw said. “And Masters is throwing well.”
The Beauchamps, Elliott and Gwynne are part of a nine-member junior class, which Renshaw sees as the team’s backbone. There is talent among the seven seniors — like Carvan along with Masters and shortstop Joey Schoenemann, who are playing for the first time since they were freshmen — but Renshaw has had his eye on this group of juniors for a long time.
“A lot of them have played for me and have a lot of varsity experience,” Renshaw said. “It’s been a group we really looked at from they came in as freshmen. We knew they could be really special with the guys that are in it.”
Maybe extra-special, if they keep hitting the ball.
“If we can get the offense going ... no worries,” Renshaw said.