Lee’s Summit’s baseball team had to wait out an hour-long lightning delay May 14 hanging out inside Raymore-Peculiar High School. Having a five-run lead with only three more outs left to get made the wait less taxing.
Lee’s Summit quickly got those outs once play resumed, and with them a 6-1 victory over Ray-Pec in the Class 5 District 13 tournament semifinals. Lee’s Summit (23-5) will meet Lee’s Summit West or Rockhurst for the district title May 17 at Ray-Pec.
Lee’s Summit, which was the home team as the higher seed, had just put Ray-Pec down in order in the top of the sixth inning when the lightning came too close to allow play to continue in the off-and-on rain. The field was ordered evacuated; another nearby strike extended the delay.
But even as they stood so tantalizingly close to their first victory of the postseason, the Tigers and coach Jim Mellody realized they were in an envious position.
“I think that makes it a lot easier, rather than having the situation reversed,” Mellody said. “The kids are thinking about they need to do to finish the game, what they need to do to win the next game versus when do we turn in uniforms and when’s the next summer ball tournament.”
Lee’s Summit got into that position with a formula that has worked so well all season: Dominant pitching, solid defense and an inning of timely hitting.
Joe Vandenbos, Gabe Combs and Grant Heizer got the job done on the mound, combining to give up only four hits and a walk while striking out seven. The defense committed only one error and turned in several sparkling plays, including a diving catch by center fielder Grant Baird for the second out of the third inning.
And Lee’s Summit’s bats erupted for 11 hits, including three that fueled a two-out, three-run rally in the third.
“That is the formula,” Mellody said. “We will have one inning where we are golden at the plate. We will defend better than most people and our pitching was outstanding again.”
Vandenbos began the third-inning attack with a hit that just slipped past Ray-Pec third baseman Zach Gwynne. Baird walked, and Cameron Pudenz and Jason Kostelnick followed with back-to-back RBI singles. Pudenz later scored on a wild pitch.
Ray-Pec (7-20) got one run back in the fourth when Joe Schoenemann hit a leadoff double and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ashton Paith. But Lee’s Summit struck for another three in the fourth on an RBI-single by Matt Blau and a two-run double from Vandenbos.
It was about that time the rain started. Soon the Tigers, Panthers and spectators would all be ordered off the field.
“We were keeping an eye on radar and lightning detectors in the dugout,” Mellody said. “So we knew when and where it was and trying to plan a strategy accordingly.”
The two big innings allowed Mellody to lift Vandenbos before he would hit 60 pitches and become ineligible for Thursday’s district final. Gabe Combs threw a solid inning in relief, but Mellody didn’t want to bring him back after the long delay.
Heizer came in for the seventh, and after hitting the leadoff batter, he retired the next three on called third strikes.
And that made the long and rainy wait worthwhile.
“We’ll take a win and move on,” Mellody said. “That’s all you got to do.”
West and Rockhurst started their semifinal after Lee’s Summit’s victory but the stormy weather continued. The game was suspended until May 16.