Raymore-Peculiar baseball coach Gary Renshaw frequently reminded his players of the consequences of giving up a big inning. Against Lee’s Summit West, those consequences proved to be deadly.
Ray-Pec’s season essentially came to an end in the third inning of the Class 5 District 13 final, when the Titans tallied nine innings and cruised to a 10-3 victory May 21 on the Panthers’ home field.
“Usually on my little sheet (in the dugout) I write down, ‘Avoid the big inning,’” Renshaw said. “You take that away or at least limit them to two or three runs and it’s a whole different ballgame.”
It became a different ballgame in the third, when Ray-Pec’s early 1-0 lead got smothered by nine Lee’s Summit West runs on five hits. It started innocently enough, when the Titans’ Monte Harrison drew a leadoff walk.
Harrison, a three-sport star who will either be playing football and baseball at Nebraska next fall or drafted by a major-league ballclub this summer, is a disruptive force on the basepaths. Ray-Pec pitcher Ben Harris threw to first base three times before he offered a pitch to the next batter, Logan Geha. Geha then laced a single, Harrison sprinted to third, and the floodgates opened.
“It may have gotten in (Harris’) head a little bit but I don’t think it did because he knows his speed,” Renshaw said. “He just got a few pitches up and a few pitches in and he was just missing.”
Harrison sprinted home on a wild pitch, and Grayson Handel followed later with a two-run triple that sailed over the left fielder’s head. Carson Pickard followed with an RBI single, another run scored on a wild pitch, and the Titans snuck in a run by sending Ryan Kayhill from third as the catcher was throwing the ball back to Harris after he walked a batter.
Harrison, the 10th of 12 Titans to come to the plate in the inning, tripled and scored on a groundout to complete the onslaught. He doubled and scored another run in the sixth.
Ray-Pec took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on two-out singles by Evan Rathburn and Austyn Cochran. The Panthers also got some help from a Titan throwing error.
The Panthers scored two more runs in the fourth on an RBI-single by Tyler Hobbs and a wild pitch.
But that was about all the offense they could generate against Lee’s Summit West ace Alex Lange. Lange, an LSU baseball signee, held Ray-Pec to four hits while striking out 14.
“Our goal was to jump on them quick,” Renshaw said. “We wanted to get some runs on (Lange) and get him rattled a little bit. But it’s hard to rattle that kid.”
Ray-Pec ended its season with an 18-12 record and runner-up finishes in the Suburban Conference and the district. Renshaw wouldn’t let the final loss overshadow those accomplishments.
“We told them to keep their heads up, it was a great season, a great run and we could have easily folded,” Renshaw said. “Our kids battled and battled until that last strikeout.”