Lee’s Summit continued a trend that coach Jim Mellody has found a little discomforting: fall behind early, take control with a big inning and hang on at the end.
Only the Tigers put a little twist on it Tuesday when they met Blue Springs South in a Class 5 baseball sectional game at Legacy Park. After erupting for eight runs in the third inning, the Tigers kept pouring it on.
The end result: A 15-4 five-inning bludgeoning that sent the Tigers to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2005.
“That’s kind of been our M.O. the last two weeks,” Mellody said. “This game we scored every inning. But in the last few games we’ll have one big inning and hold on.”
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Actually, Lee’s Summit didn’t score in the fourth after leaving the bases loaded. But the Tigers did score single runs in the first and second and added five more in the fifth. In between was an eight-run, five-hit, five-walk feeding frenzy that saw 12 Tigers come to the plate.
Lee’s Summit trailed 4-2 when Quinton Carlberg drew a walk off Blue Springs South starter Brandt Lightner to start the third. After a Grant Baird single and a balk, Zavian Hill brought home the first run on a ground out.
One out later, the floodgates opened.
Ben Lock, Dalton Hill and Jason Kostelnick received back-to-back-to-back walks to plate the tying run. Spencer Parker, who finished four-for-four with four RBIs, drove in the go-ahead run with an infield single. Dalen Blair walked home another run, and Carlberg came up again and lashed a two-run single down the third base line. A wild pitch scored another run, and Zavian Hill doubled for his second RBI of the inning and the last run.
“That pitcher we faced in the third inning, we faced him four times,” Zavian Hill said. “We knew what he was going to throw, we knew what was coming up and then when he started struggling, we told our players, ‘Hey, be patient, let the ball come to you first.’”
Hill is one of eight seniors on the Tigers, and Mellody said that maturity had a lot to do with the productivity.
“They did a good job of letting the pitcher get himself in trouble and getting a good pitch to hit,” Mellody said. “Early in the season we did not do that, but the last couple of weeks we have gotten better.”
Lightner didn’t survive the third, and Lee’s Summit starter Ben Lock didn’t last long either. Lock got touched for an RBI single from William Heller in the first inning, and gave up two walks and a run-scoring double to Arkansas-bound catcher Allante Hall before being replaced by Dalen Blair in the second.
“I was hoping to get Ben through four or five and then get Dalen in,” Mellody said. “But it was one of those crazy games early. They hit hard outs and then you add his walks … I had to make a move and Ben knew it.”
Blue Springs South scored two more runs charged to Lock for a 4-2 lead, but Blair held the Jaguars to three hits and two walks over the last 3 2/3 innings. That enabled the Tigers to end the game after pouring on another five runs on three hits and an error in the fifth.
And the 22-9 Tigers had another come-from-behind win, just like their wild 9-8 victory over Lee’s Summit West in the Class 5 District 13 semifinals and their 4-2 victory over Rockhurst in the title game that featured a three-run rally in the sixth. It was their third win in four games against the 18-13 Jaguars this season, and it had them brimming with confidence as they faced Platte County Thursday in the quarterfinals.
“This team never quits,” Zavian Hill said. “That’s what I love about this team. We have confidence in ourselves that we can come back no matter what we’re down.”