With one succinct analogy, Lee’s Summit coach Jim Mellody summed up a wet, windy and wild day of baseball.
“I think I went through as many emotions as we had weather changes during that game,” Mellody said after the Tigers walked off with a 9-8 victory over host Lee’s Summit West Wednesday in the semifinals of the Class 5 District 13 tournament. “We had a 10-degree temperature switch, we had rain, we had sun, we had clouds, 50 mile-an-hour winds … and my emotions were just as crazy.”
Mellody’s emotions churned as the Tigers went down by two, up by two, down by four and then down by one going into the bottom of the seventh inning, when a single up the middle by Ben Lock brought home Zavian Hill and ended an afternoon that included gale-force winds and intermittent rain.
It also included a stirring rally by Lee’s Summit, which picked itself up after West battered the Tigers for six runs during a ragged fifth inning. As awful as that inning was for the Tigers, they weren’t ready to call it a season yet.
“All of us seniors we were talking the entire game: ‘just got to keep going,’” Lock said. “That’s what we’ve done all year. It’s tough to beat us.”
Lee’s Summit crawled back within 8-7 after a three-run sixth inning, and began the seventh with Quinton Carlberg getting hit by a pitch. Joseph Vandenboos walked, and Grant Baird bunted them over into scoring position.
After Zavian Hill walked to load the bases, Austin Polina singled to left field to bring home Carlberg with the tying run right after checking his swing – barely – on a two-strike pitch. Courtesy runner Gabe Combs was thrown out trying to score from second.
“I’ll say it: He was out,” West coach Jay Meyer said of the checked swing. “We get the call on that and we’re sitting pretty good right there.”
That brought up Lock, who lashed a ground ball into center field. The speedy Hill, who was already breaking for third base, scored easily to start the celebration.
“I knew I didn’t have to do anything big with Z on second,” said Lock, who finished the day three for five with three RBIs. “He’s one of the fastest kids on our team. I just had to put one up the middle and let him do what he does best.”
“It looks like I called a beautiful hit and run but they did it all on their own,” Mellody said. “All I did was wave Z in.”
West took a 2-0 lead on single runs in the second and third innings before the Tigers erupted for four runs on five hits in the bottom of the third. Lock singled home the first run, Dalton Hill followed with an RBI double and Jason Kostelnick also had an RBI single as the Tigers handed starting pitcher Dalen Blair a 4-2 lead.
“I’m honestly thinking it’s over,” Mellody said. “Dalen has been lights out this year. He’s been incredible. Then all of a sudden we just couldn’t throw a strike.”
Blair wouldn’t survive the fifth, which saw West score six runs on two hits with the help of four walks, a hit batter, a wild pitch and a throwing error. Cole Taylor drew a bases-loaded walk for the first run, and Trevor Kardell followed with a two-run single to continue the onslaught. The Titans brought 10 batters to the plate and ended the frame with an 8-4 lead.
“We had to find a way to limit the damage and we didn’t do a very good job of that,” Mellody said. “I probably could have lived with giving up three runs right there, but when they turned it into six I was a little worried.”
Vandenboos, the third pitcher in the game for Lee’s Summit, eased those worries by retiring all but one Titan he faced starting with the final out of the fifth. That gave the Tigers a chance to claw back, which they did when Polina hit a two-run double and Lock followed with an RBI-single in the sixth.
Worry would turn to joy one inning later for the Lee’s Summit, and joy would turn into despair for the Titans. West, which reached the Class 5 final four last season, saw this one end suddenly with a 14-15 record.
“We didn’t quit,” Meyer said. “We got behind the eight ball there. We had our opportunities; it just got away from us.”
Lee’s Summit advanced to play Rockhurst in Thursday’s district final. Rockhurst beat Raymore-Peculiar 5-3 in the other semifinal.
“These guys are tough; they will fight,” Mellody said. “We may get beat sometimes but they do fight and make it interesting to the last. And it showed in this one.”
Broncos fall in district final
Lee’s Summit North’s season came to an end with a 7-6 loss to Blue Springs South in the Class 5 District 14 tournament final Tuesday in Grain Valley.
North led 4-3 in the sixth inning, when a bases-loaded triple by Allante Hall and a sacrifice fly put the Jaguars up 7-4. The Broncos scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh.
North, the Suburban Gold Conference champions, ended the season with a 17-13 record.