Lee’s Summit North slid on a five-game losing streak into this week’s Eastern Jackson County Mid-Season Classic baseball tournament. In season full of ups and downs, things seemed to be mostly looking down for the Broncos.
Not any more.
North won its pool in the 10-team tournament, out-slugging St. Joseph Central 15-8 for its fourth-straight victory on April 23 at blustery Legacy Park. The Broncos were scheduled to play Blue Springs South, which beat Lee’s Summit 6-2 in the other pool play decider, for the title at 3:30 p.m. today (April 25) after rain pushed the tournament back a day.
North, 9-10 after beating Central, seemed an unlikely candidate for the final as the week began. Their last win came April 7 at Blue Springs, and the season-long bugaboos of shaky defense and inconsistent hitting continued to haunt them.
An 11-5 win over Summit Christian Academy in the tournament opener April 21 ended that streak. Lopsided wins over William Chrisman (14-3) and Raytown (18-4) followed and then they let it all hang out against Central, taking advantage of a howling wind blowing out to left field to crank out 16 hits.
“We’re doing a better job of putting the bat on the ball, cutting down our strikeouts a little bit,” North coach Jeff Diekmann said. “We started the week off when there were several instances where I thought we should be scoring more runs than what we did. But yesterday and today I thought we were doing a really good job of moving the ball.”
The Broncos needed to move the ball to keep up with Central, which cranked out 11 hits of its own. The lead see-sawed through the first four innings with the Indians scoring three times in the bottom of the fourth to go up 7-5.
The see-sawing ended in the fifth, when the Broncos erupted for eight runs on eight hits. Jordan Barba’s RBI-double put North ahead for good, and Chase Swisher later added a two-run single.
“We all just got started and it seemed like nobody was making a bad at-bat,” said North outfielder Matt Brumfield, who went three-for-four and drove in two runs. “Everybody was seeing a lot of pitches and hitting the ball good. Things just kept on happening.”
Barba also had three hits for the Broncos, and Nick Gavin drove in three runs. All but two in the starting lineup scored.
“I think everybody did a good job of putting the ball in play today,” Diekmann said.
Putting the ball in play wasn’t as easy for Lee’s Summit. The Tigers trailed 6-0 after four innings against Blue Springs South, the No. 6 ranked team in the state. Three of the Jaguars’ runs came with the help of two errors in the third inning.
“We played them tough, we pitched well,” said Lee’s Summit assistant coach Kevin Pettit, who filled in as head coach Jim Mellody served a suspension after getting tossed the game before. “We had a couple of defensive miscues and that was basically the game.”
Lee’s Summit will meet St. Joseph Central at 3:30 p.m. today for third place.
Summit Christian didn’t have a shot at the title game, but the Eagles did even their tournament record at 2-2 by downing Raytown 11-9. For the Eagles, who have a much thinner roster than the other teams in the field, the name of the game has been survival.
“We have 13 guys, and this really stretches our pitching staff,” Summit Christian coach John Gage said. “We’re just trying to get through the week.”
Summit Christian never trailed after taking a 4-0 lead in the first inning with the help of RBI-doubles by Reuben Erisman and Taurin Hughes. But Raytown closed within 8-6 by the end of the fifth inning and rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh after the Eagles had gone up 11-6 in the top of the frame.
“We hit the ball pretty well,” Gage said. “Erisman and Hughes both came up with some big hits. And we scored right there at the end and that was huge.”