Team effort leads Lansing past Tongie
Kansas City, Kan. The stage was grand and the drama high Thursday night at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, but the 6-4 victory that the Lansing High baseball team claimed over rival Tonganoxie was more than just a feel-good memory for the scrapbook.
The clutch hits; the spirited crowd; the wild finish with the home plate umpire overruling the call at first to swing the game back to LHS. All of those were snapshots worth savoring, but the feeling in the Lansing dugout after the game told the real story: the Lions became a team that finally believed in each other.
How could they not? Their four-game losing skid ended. They won a game in a professional team's stadium. Every player who stepped on the field contributed statistically to the victory. And in a game this tight, even the tiniest detail was huge.
"I think we did a great job tonight of picking each other up," LHS coach Troy Andrews said. "One fails, and the other one succeeds."
Glance at the scorebook for the proof:
- Peter Gibson had two hits and two RBI.
- Tylor McNeill tossed an eight-hitter and struck out four in six innings of work despite feeling under the weather.
- Kyle Miller beat out an infield single and scored a run.
- Johnny Stratton reached base three times.
- Kyle Hutchison had two RBI.
- Chris Grady had two RBI.
- Elias Moya reached base twice and scored a run.
- Mike Nielsen went 1-for-1 with a single and two runs scored.
- Kris Hernandez pitched in relief and earned the first two outs of the seventh inning.
- Taylor Majure came in and threw to the final batter for the last out.
- Matt McMillin had two hits, and he made the sweep tag at first that ended the game.
"I think this allows everyone to look at each other as a good player, because everyone stepped up and everyone played their best," McMillin said. "Some of us had little errors, but we made up for it with our bats or we made up for it in the field."
Early on it looked like Lansing might deliver a repeat performance of last week's shutout victory over THS.
Gibson led off the game with a solid single up the middle. McNeill followed with a walk. Gibson scored on Kyle Hutchison's ground ball. Then Nielsen, pinch running for McNeill, scored on a ground ball by Grady for a 2-0 lead.
Tonganoxie scored a run in the bottom of the second when Chase Heskett doubled and then scored on Jake Dent's base hit.
LHS extended its lead to 4-1 in the fourth inning when Miller and Hutchison both scored. Then Tonganoxie rallied with a run in the bottom of the fourth and two more in the fifth to tie it.
After a scoreless fifth, Lansing struck again in the sixth. Moya was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Nielsen followed with a single. After a fly out by McMillin, Gibson laced a sharp single up the middle that brought home Moya and Nielsen for a 6-4 lead.
Gibson's hit gave the Lions a jolt of confidence, but he said he was just doing his job to help the team.
"Tylor came in and pitched a good game, and we just backed him up and played together as a team," he said.
THS went quietly in the sixth, but things quickly got dicey in the seventh. Hernandez entered in relief of McNeill, and he calmly retired the first two batters with a ground ball and a fly out. Then Logan Forbis hit a ground ball that appeared to end the game, but McMillin didn't make the catch at first. Suddenly the Chieftains had momentum.
The next two batters walked to load the bases.
"I was nervous because of all of the fans," the sophomore pitcher admitted of the jam he faced. "And then the crowd started going crazy, which just put more nerves on me. But I was pretty confident I could get the job done."
Majure faced pinch-hitter Eric Lowe and immediately threw two strikes. After taking ball one, Lowe hit Majure's next offering to Gibson at shortstop. Gibson's throw was a little off-target, but McMillin made the snag and slapped a sweep tag on Lowe's back.
The first base umpire didn't see the tag and called Lowe safe, but the home plate umpire intervened and reversed the call.
The Lions (9-9) breathed a collective sigh of relief after surviving the close call, but Majure said it was a win that would make them better as the regional tournament nears.
"When you win a game like this, especially against a rival like this, it really gets you going heading into regionals," he said. "It's a nice lift."
And a much-needed lift, according to McNeill.
"Coming off four straight losses, there was a lot of pressure because we had to get a game," he said. "We have to stay above .500 going into regionals. We were kind of down, but Tonganoxie got us back up."
Lansing closes out the regular season at 4 p.m. today at Bonner Springs. The regional seeding meeting is Saturday, and then postseason play starts next week.