All season long, Raymore-Peculiar baseball coach Gary Renshaw patiently waited for his team to get better. The Panthers were young, but Renshaw saw talent that would surely develop over time.
The Panthers’ time appears to be now.
Ray-Pec is rolling, and on May 7 the Panthers had a six-game winning streak going after claiming a 5-2 eight-inning victory at Lee’s Summit.
That winning streak ended with a 3-1 loss to Liberty May 9, but the Panthers bounced back to beat Lee’s Summit North 4-1 on May 13. Before their regular-season finale May 14 against Raytown, the Panthers were 15-11 for the season as they prepared to play host to the Class 5 District 13 tournament.
Ray-Pec will play Ruskin at 12:30 p.m. May 17 in the first round of district play, with the winner facing Rockhurst in the semifinals 6:30 p.m. May 19.
“We’ve been kind of waiting for this,” Renshaw said of his team’s late surge. “We started out a little slow, we’ve got a lot of young kids. But we saw this team getting better.”
Ray-Pec put that progress on display against Lee’s Summit. Starting pitcher Kyle Wilson had another stellar outing, striking out seven Tigers and holding them to two earned runs over eight innings. There was solid defense, too, with Blake Skeed turning a crucial double play in the bottom of the seventh.
But most important, the Panthers displayed some discipline at the plate. And that ultimately won them the game.
Ray-Pec scored four runs in the top of the eighth off Tigers reliever Ryan Laddish to break open a 1-1 tie. Austyn Cochran began the rally with a one-out single, and one out later Jordan Vantrump drew a walk after going down 0-2 in the count.
Dallas Hile, who was running for Cochran, went to third on a wild pitch. Then Josh Fultz worked the count for a walk, loading the bases. Turner Wehmeyer, who had scored the Panthers’ lone run in the third, then walked on a 3-1 count for the go-ahead run. Tyler Hobbs also worked a walk after Wehmeyer, and the Panthers led 3-1.
“We like to be aggressive at the plate, but I talk to them about getting the count in their favor,” Renshaw said. “The guys I had up during that time are very good about working the count. That really turned things around with them being patient and taking some pitches.”
Wehmeyer said it was all a matter of patience, and being aware of the pitcher’s struggles.
“He started getting a little wild, and you could tell he was kind of rattled,” Wehmeyer said. “So we just went up there and tried to take as many pitches as possible and looking for that one pitch.”
Skeed found his pitch and turned it into a two-run single, and the Panthers had plenty of breathing room. Lee’s Summit scored one run in the bottom of the eighth but the rally ended there.