LSJ Sports

Tigers hope to see some postseason pop in their bats

Lee’s Summit’s Jason Kostelnick, who connected with a pitch during a game earlier this season, has been one of the top hitters on Tigers’ offense that has struggled with consistency.
Lee’s Summit’s Jason Kostelnick, who connected with a pitch during a game earlier this season, has been one of the top hitters on Tigers’ offense that has struggled with consistency. Special to the Journal

It’s been a charmed season for Lee’s Summit baseball. Maybe a little too charmed for coach Jim Mellody’s liking.

Lee’s Summit stood 22-5 as it prepared to begin postseason play in the Class 5 District 13 tournament at Raymore-Peculiar. The Tigers have the No. 1 seed and will meet Belton or Raymore-Peculiar May 14 in a semifinal game.

Lee’s Summit already has a Suburban Gold Conference championship to celebrate. But if the Tigers want to keep this successful season going, Mellody knows they will have to rely more on their abundant skill than their ample good fortune.

“We’ve been lucky enough to win three 1-0 games this year,” Mellody said. “I don’t want to push that luck any more. I would like to get some runs.”

Lee’s Summit actually had two 1-0 victories this year, but the point remains. The Tigers had nine games in which they scored three runs or less and lost five of them. Five of their victories have come by one run.

Lee’s Summit’s pitching has been superb, and the defense has been rock-solid. Mellody would just like to see the offense rise to the same level if the Tigers want to make a second-straight trip to the Class 5 state tournament.

“I feel great about our pitching; I feel great about our defense,” Mellody said. “But we need to hit just a little bit more. I think if we can score five or six runs we’re going to win, the way we pitch and defend. We do that and we’re going to be OK.”

As a team Lee’s Summit is batting .291, and with only one home run to their credit the Tigers haven’t been hitting with much power. But they do have some bats: outfielder Spencer Parker is batting a team-best .366 and shortstop Quinton Carlberg is right behind him at .365.

Carlberg’s 23 RBIs lead the Tigers, and second baseman/pitcher Jason Kostelnick has a team-high 33 hits and 26 runs scored with a .363 batting average.

Mellody knows he has several Tigers capable of hitting the ball. The problem has been getting all of them to do it together.

“We are consistently all great, or we are consistently all in a slump,” Mellody said. “If you ever look at our linescores there’s always one inning where we score five or six runs and then that might be it for the game. We can explode and go crazy one time through the lineup and then kind of hold on.”

Lee’s Summit’s pitching, on the other hand, has been constantly good. Right-hander Gabe Combs is 7-0 with 1.19 ERA and 49 strikeouts, all of which lead the team. Joe Vandenbos is 5-2 with a 1.36 ERA and 30 strikeouts and Grant Heizer is 4-1 with a 2.00 ERA. Kostelnick, Cameron Pudenz and Cody White have also contributed innings for the Tigers, who have a team ERA of 1.74.

“Vandenbos and Combs are a tossup for the staff ace,” Mellody said. “On any giving day they’re able to shut somebody down.”

Give them a few more runs to work with, and Mellody believes the Tigers will have all they need for another deep postseason run.

Lee’s Summit West is also in the Class 5 District 13 tournament. West (17-11-1) is seeded No. 2 and meets No. 7 Ruskin 11:30 a.m. May 12 in the first round.

Lee’s Summit North is seeded fourth in the Class 5 District 14 tournament at Blue Springs. North (5-24) plays Raytown 11 a.m. May 14 in the first round.

Summit Christian Academy has the No. 1 seed in the Class 3 District 14 tournament in Holden. SCA (18-4) will play either Sherwood or South Harrison 4 p.m. May 14 in the semifinals.

St. Michael the Archangel is seeded sixth in the Class 3 District 6 tournament at Valley Park. St. Michael (4-19) opens against Whitfield May 11.