Errors costly for LHS baseball
Everything, it seemed, had fallen into place for the Lansing High baseball team to advance to state.
The Lions (16-6) had home-field advantage in the Class 5A playoffs, their bats were sharp and junior pitcher Chris Wagner was flawless on the mound in the regional final against Shawnee Heights.
A season-high seven errors and a questionable call at third base negated all of that, however, as the Lions fell 8-4 in the championship game at LHS field. It was the same fate as last year when they lost the Class 4A regional title game to Topeka Hayden.
"The fact that we ended up in the exact same spot as last year is frustrating," senior John Tytla said. "I hope next year they can get through to state."
Suffice to say, this year's squad had its chances. The Lions cruised past Highland Park 7-3 in the regional semifinals behind a strong outing on the mound by senior Conn Blakley and timely hits from Jeff Terrill and Mike Bayless, but LHS had two errors in that game that seemed to foreshadow what was to come.
Wagner retired the first four T-Bird batters he faced. A pair of infield errors and a double led to two unearned runs, though. Lansing tried to counter in the bottom of the inning as Terrill and Tytla ripped back-to-back singles. Bayless followed by lacing a shot to left field that was caught. Terrill tagged up and raced home, but the umpire called him out at third for leaving early.
"I was like, you've got to be kidding me," LHS coach Terry Stueve said of the call that killed the Lions' early momentum.
Three more errors in the fourth inning led to two more runs and a 4-0 Heights lead.
LHS responded with a two-run double by senior Matt Mowery in the bottom of the fourth, but another fielding error in the sixth led to another T-Bird run.
Tytla's two-run homer in the sixth made it a 5-4 ballgame, but that was all the offense the Lions could muster.
"I was hoping we could carry it," Tytla said of the momentum the Lions seemed to get from his blast. "We're a good team, but we destroyed ourselves in this one."
The game signaled the end of Stueve's coaching career at LHS. He will move to Salina in the fall because his wife got a new job there.
"This bunch, they're not just baseball players," he said. "They're good kids, and that's what I'm going to miss. There were some questionable calls out there, most kids would throw temper tantrums, whine, pout about it and get run-ruled probably. Our kids didn't. They fought through it and they made a game out of it at the end."