With a stout wind howling in from right field, Lee’s Summit baseball coach Jim Mellody knew it wouldn’t be a day to play Home Run Derby. Manufacturing runs would be the order of the day.
And not a lot of runs, either. So when the Tigers squeezed out seven runs to beat Kansas power Olathe South 7-2 on April 16 at Legacy Park, he was pleasantly surprised.
“I thought we would score four or five runs and that’s how I was playing the game early,” Mellody said. “When we broke it open late that came as a relief.”
Mellody wanted to see the Tigers get on and move runners over with aggressive play on the bases, and that’s just what they did. At first that didn’t work so well; they left the bases loaded in the first inning and ran out of an opportunity for another run in the second.
“We’ve had a hard time about getting guys on and driving runners in,” Mellody said. “I had a good feeling about today. They were hitting the ball hard and I knew they would find some holes.”
Lee’s Summit didn’t have to get its offense going right away thanks to a sterling effort from pitcher Saul Nunez. The right-hander held Olathe South to three singles and three walks over six innings. The two runs he gave up were unearned, coming on a two-base throwing error in the third.
“Nunez looked awesome,” Mellody said. “Best I’ve seen him all year. He wasn’t going to start today, but I knew there would be a premium on keeping the baserunners down and he doesn’t walk a lot of people.”
Lee’s Summit manufactured its first run in the second inning when Ryan Laddish led off with an infield single, went to second on Travis Simonin’s bunt, reached third on a groundout and scored when Jake Singer slapped a bunt the Falcons’ third baseman couldn’t field.
After Olathe South took a 2-1 lead in the top of the third, the Tigers tied it in bottom half of the inning when Noah Arni hit a leadoff single, stole second and eventually scored on a wild pitch.
“We were just looking to get on base, get some runners and get them in,” Lee’s Summit junior Clint Jennings said. “And we came through.”
Jennings came through with the biggest hit of the game, a two-run single in the fifth that broke the game open. The Tigers added three more with the help of another bunt single, an error and a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
“Clint Jenning’s hit to go up 4-2 was a big cushion,” Mellody said. “I really thought the game was over after that hit.”
The victory over Olathe South, 8-3 and the Kansas Class 6A state runner-up last season, came a day after Lee’s Summit lost a conference game at Raymore-Peculiar 5-1. Ray-Pec starter Ben Harris held the Tigers to one run and scattered seven hits.