The unseasonably cold and wet start to spring has wreaked havoc on scheduling and practice for high school baseball teams, Lee’s Summit included.
But on a sunny — yet still chilly — afternoon April 4, Lee’s Summit looked as if it had been playing in nothing but bright 70-degree days.
Starting pitcher Gabe Combs threw a three-hit shutout, while the Tigers enjoyed timely hitting and solid defense in a 6-0 victory at Lee’s Summit North.
“We’ve been inside for practices the last couple of days and all of us were itching to get out,” Lee’s Summit second baseman Jason Kostelnick said. “Anytime time we get out to play, rain or shine, we’re happy to be there.”
Lee’s Summit (6-3, 1-0 Suburban Gold) does have an advantage with its cavernous Fieldhouse, which coach Jim Mellody said is big enough to set up an entire infield. There’s only so much a team can do indoors, but Mellody said the Tigers haven’t let that hold them back.
“We can play some baseball in there,” Mellody said, “and the kids haven’t hung their heads. They’re inside, they’re going after it, they’re getting to work.”
Combs made quick work of North’s batters during his seven-inning shutout. The senior right-hander needed only 58 pitches and worked around singles in the first, third and fourth innings while striking out three with no walks. Only one Bronco made it past first base.
“That’s a good as I’ve seen anyone ever look,” Mellody said. “That’s throwing strikes, that’s the defense playing well, that is everybody. That’s impressive.”
Kostelnick was impressive at the plate, going 3 for 4 with two doubles, two runs and three RBIs. The senior also stood out in the field with a tough throw off a grounder to peg North’s Ryan Urzendowski leading off the second inning and two innings later starting an inning-ending double play.
“He’s probably been our most consistent hitter,” Mellody said. “He played third base last year and he’s making the move to second base this year and he’s adjusting well and he loves it. He’s just a natural.”
Lee’s Summit took a 1-0 lead in the first when Kostelnick doubled down the third-base line to score Grant Baird, who led off the game with an infield single.
Baird, who had two hits and three runs, scored again during the Tigers’ three-run third, which included the first of two RBI doubles from Quinton Carlberg and a Kostelnick RBI single. Two more runs came home in the sixth when Baird singled and Carlberg and Kostelnick doubled with two out.
That would be more than enough cushion for Combs, who retired the last 11 North batters he faced. Jaxson Hill had two hits for the Broncos (1-9, 0-3 Suburban Gold).
“We’ve been really scuffling at the plate anyway and, when you get a guy that’s just pumping strikes, you’ve got to be aggressive and we just watched too many good pitches,” North coach Mike Westacott said. “But give him credit. He threw a heck of a ballgame against us.”