The Strike Out Cancer Game always tugs at the heartstrings as it salutes and mourns those affected by the disease. The seventh edition played April 23 at Lee’s Summit West was no exception.
But for Raymore-Peculiar, which plays West every year in the annual fundraiser and commemoration game, this year’s game was just a little more poignant.
The Panthers were still dealing with the recent death of a fellow student, one who was popular and known by many of the players. The team had forfeited its previous game and tangling with the Titans was the first time back on the field since the tragedy.
“It’s been a rough few days,” Ray-Pec baseball coach Gary Renshaw said. “I wasn’t real sure what I’d get tonight. For the circumstances we were under, they came out and battled.”
Renshaw was pleased to see that, even if they couldn’t keep pace with a hot-hitting West team during a 10-0 six-inning loss.
As always, this game was about more than the final result on the field. Renshaw and Titans coach Jay Meyer both have wives who are cancer survivors, which inspired them to turn one of their two games every season into a fundraiser that has generated several thousand dollars since it started.
The proceeds from this year’s game, silent auction and 50-50 raffle will benefit the Children’s Mercy Cancer Center. Dr. John David Nolen, a clinical pathologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital, spoke to the crowd after a balloon release and moment of silence to honor those taken by or fighting cancer.
“Everyone has some connection, some story or friend (battling cancer),” Meyer said. “It’s still a great ballgame, and when it comes time to play ball, we lock in and take care of business.”
That includes West starter Trevor Kardell. He threw one of the ceremonial first pitches to his mother, Jill Kardell, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. Diane Ejjaidali, a Ray-Pec middle school teacher fighting breast cancer, caught the other first pitch.
Now a cancer survivor, Jill Kardell said events like Strike Out Cancer are a big help financially and emotionally to others fighting the disease.
“This is awesome,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve actually been involved in this and I’m just amazed with all the support we’ve had from everybody.”
Trevor Kardell, a sophomore right-hander, limited Ray-Pec to two hits and two walks with five strikeouts during four scoreless innings, though the Panthers did make him sweat a little in the third inning.
Kardell walked Brandon Carvan after retiring the first two Ray-Pec batters. Joey Schoenemann followed with a seeing-eye single and Ashton Paith loaded the bases with an infield hit down the third-base line. Kardell got out of the jam by getting Zach Gwynne to strike out on a check swing.
“We’ve done that all year,” Renshaw said. “At one time, I think we stranded 92 runners in 84 innings. You can’t do that when you’re playing good baseball teams, because it will come back and haunt you.”
Ray-Pec only trailed 1-0 at the time, but West started pouring on the runs. Left fielder Carter Young went 4 for 4 and led the Titans with four RBIs and scored three runs.
Young hit a home run in the first inning, an RBI triple in the third and a single in the fifth. He came to the plate in the sixth inning only a double shy of hitting for the cycle. Carter drove an 0-1 pitch to right field, sending the ball over the wall for a two-run homer that ended the game.
“We threw him everything, too,” Renshaw said. “We threw him fastballs up, curveballs in the dirt, but he was definitely on fire.”
Ray-Pec bounced back the next night and beat longtime rival Belton 6-2, but it’s been a difficult season for the Panthers, who were 6-11 after beating the Pirates.
Last week was an especially difficult week, so Renshaw was glad to see them set that aside for one night.
“(Cancer) affects a lot of our kids on the team and same way with theirs,” Renshaw said. “So, anything we can do to help out and raise money ... it’s a pleasure to do this.”