It was senior night at Legacy Park, and Lee’s Summit wasn’t going to let an inelegant victory spoil the celebration.
The Tigers and their 12 seniors, after all, have had plenty to celebrate during this baseball season. That wasn’t about to change, not even after a sloppy 9-5 victory over Lee’s Summit North in a Suburban Gold Conference game April 30. The Tigers still enjoyed their postgame cake and chicken sandwiches after they improved to 18-3 overall and 8-1 in conference play.
Still, the senior Tigers would have liked for their night to be a little less sloppy.
“It wasn’t the performance I wanted, personally,” Lee’s Summit senior Joe Vandenbos said. “We started out poorly but we did what we needed to do and won. And that’s what matters.”
Lee’s Summit only managed one hit until breaking open for eight runs on seven hits in the fourth inning. North had baserunners in every inning but the seventh against three Tiger pitchers, and three errors helped contribute to five unearned runs.
None of this came as a total surprise to Lee’s Summit coach Jim Mellody. With a strong wind blowing in from center field, the emotions of senior night and two subpar games over the weekend, Mellody feared the Tigers might not be at their best.
“It was a pretty ugly game on both sides,” Mellody said. “I think the pomp, the circumstance, the wind and the conditions all played into it.”
North starting pitcher Jeremy Root played into it, too. Root, a senior right-hander, held Lee’s Summit to a single over the first three innings. The Broncos had a 1-0 lead after two-out singles by T.J. Nichols and Dylan Lankford and a wild pitch brought home a run.
“We felt like (Root) was throwing really well and keeping hitters of balance,” North coach Mike Westacott said. “And that’s what he’s been giving us all year long.”
That changed in the fourth when Lee’s Summit started stringing together hits. Noah Burton had a two-run double, and Cameron Pudenz added a two-run single for the biggest hits. The Tigers brought 12 batters to the plate during the onslaught.
“We do that a lot,” Vandenbos said. “We start out slow and after about three or four innings we all start hammering it and scoring runs.”
Mellody said the key to the big inning was a string of three two-strike hits. Catcher Michael Edgar also helped keep the inning going with a 10-pitch at-bat that ended with him getting hit by a pitch.
“That’s what made that inning,” Mellody said. “If anyone of those guys strike out we don’t get it and who knows how the game would have ended up.”
Lee’s Summit managed one more run in the fifth, but North (3-22, 1-8) almost made things interesting in the late innings as the Tigers kicked the ball around. An error led to one Bronco run in the fifth. Two more miscues and an RBI-double from Wyatt Urzendowski helped bring home three more in the sixth.
But Lee’s Summit would hang on for another win, and their seniors would still get to celebrate.
“It was a wild game and a game that you’ve got to survive,” Mellody said. “And we did it.”