High School Sports

High School Sports

Lions lucky, talented

June 1, 2009


A retrospective on Lawrence High’s run to the Class 6A state baseball championship …

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the Lions’ 21-4 season was their 9-0 record in games decided by one run, including five of the last seven.

Were the Lions’ lucky? Or was luck, as the old baseball adage goes, the residue of design?

Obviously, luck had something to do with it, but so did the Lions’ combination of experience (nine seniors) and talent (notably pitching).

Lawrence hurlers Albert Minnis, Dorian Green and Andy Urban surrendered just eight hits in 17 innings. Green gave one run in seven innings, Minnis no runs in six frames and Urban two — one unearned — in four innings.

Interestingly, it wasn’t like those three LHS hurlers were blowing opposing batters away, either. Those three combined for 16 strikeouts in their 17 innings. Meanwhile, Lawrence hitters also struck out 16 times.

Overlooked in the Lions’ 3-2 victory over Shawnee Mission West in the championship game were the number of ground-ball outs. First baseman Tanner Kilmer had 13 put-outs, and second baseman Devin Forio tagged out a runner after fielding a grounder. Thus 14 of the 21 outs were off balls Vikings’ hitters pounded into the ground.

And that leads to one of the Lions’ unsung heroes. Third baseman Clint Pinnick had five assists in the title game. Said coach Brad Stoll of Pinnick: “Defensively, he was a rock all weekend, and he had quality at-bats.”

At the plate, Pinnick was 4-for-8 in the three games and was errorless in the field.

Curiously, the Lions’ defense faltered in just one of the 17 tournament innings. That was the first inning of the title contest, when Minnis misplayed a single to left, and shortstop Aaron Rea booted a slow roller — gaffes that helped SM West score its first run.

Later, Minnis rationalized that shaky first inning by noting the Lions “sat around for three hours” after knocking off Goddard, 4-1, and “it was hard to get back up.”

Those were the only two errors charged to the Lions all weekend.

Lawrence High won its third state baseball championship in what was essentially a road game. The Johnson County 3&2 Complex is SM West’s home field, and officials from that school were running the tournament.

Although the complex is a terrific facility and provided ample seating for most of the games, the championship contest was another story. There were at least 200 fans — and perhaps closer to 300 — who had to settle for standing-room only.

But at least the venue was better than last year, when the KSHSAA staged the event at substandard Hummer Park in Topeka. In keeping with its policy of alternating between east and west sites every two years, the 2010 and 2011 state meets will be in the Wichita area.

Can Lawrence post back-to-back state titles? Not likely. Not with two starting pitchers and six starting position players graduating. But you never know, particularly in baseball.

Saturday’s state title game, for example, matched the tourney’s fourth and sixth seeds. The Lions were No. 4 and the Vikings No. 6.


cato_the_elder 8 years, 12 months ago

Luck? Experience? Talent? Sure, but how about outstanding coaching? Getting pitchers to make hitters hit ground balls is one of Brad Stoll's many strengths. Moreover, his assistant coaching staff, led by Adam Green, is second to none. They all deserve a great deal of credit for the Lions' stellar run.

LTownBaby 8 years, 12 months ago

Can we get an official attendance from SM West, because there were way more than 500 fans there. I would say closer to 2,000.

Luckyduck 8 years, 12 months ago

Lucky? To a certain degree luck always plays a part in every athletic event. But the skill and perseverence of the team, led by a great coaching staff definitely were the main factors behind this state title.

And don't sell the Lions short for next year. Their ace pitcher, Minnis is back, as well as jr. starters Mosely, Kilmer and Bush, plus a bench of great juniors and some up and coming talented sophs. waiting in the wings. It should be another great year of baseball for LHS.

dougmarshall 8 years, 12 months ago

What a joke of a headline and implication the Lions were lucky. Jake Green's throw? Kilmer, Pinnick, Bailey and others' timely hitting? The second sentence contradicts the luck implication... you don't go 9-0 in one-run games on luck. You do it with mental toughness and fortitude just below the belt. Those two things start with the players and the coaches bring it out in those players. Luck may get you one or two games, but not 21. The Journal-World had a tough "unlucky" weekend with headlines it seems.

brett conrad 8 years, 12 months ago

Without minnis no state championship, I guess thats good coaching

dougmarshall 8 years, 12 months ago

That's a reach skipper. Minnis was outstanding, but you could say the same about anyone else on the team. Bailey in the regional, Pinnick in the state, D. Green in semi game, J Green in the final. Any coach gets too much credit for the bad things and not enough for the good things. The kids still have to be coached. Not one of those kids had been in a state final game, but the coaches had been there. Shouldn't they be recognized?

Clickker 8 years, 12 months ago

They certianly came in on the right side of some close games...not sure if that is "luck" any more than it would be "unlucky" had they lost them. The LHS JV. had some serious arms, and the "C" team, which was made up exclusively of ninth graders ( from Southwest and South) was outstanding, losing only a few games. I would say the future is bright fot this program.

bminnis 8 years, 12 months ago

All the players and coaches who made a contribution this year deserve the credit for the State Championship. Baseball is a team sport and no one player wins championships. It was beautiful to watch these boys share the joy of reaching their goals. You could tell in their eyes that they knew they had accomplished this as a team. As for luck... It is insulting to even suggest it. It was sweat and desire and grit and hard work that won this one.

Just_One_Voice 8 years, 12 months ago

bminnis - I couldn't have said it any better myself! To see the joy and happiness on the faces of these boys and their coaches, and to just sit back and watch them hug and congratulate each other after the Championship win was a wonderful experience. It was a total team effort -- everyone contribued, and everyone celebrated! I was also awed by the crowd of supporters, especially the LHS students who showed up in droves to support this team! I can't wait until next fall when all of these boys come back and we raise the 2009 State Baseball Championship banner at LHS!

brett conrad 8 years, 11 months ago

Without minnis LHS does not make the state tournament.

cato_the_elder 8 years, 11 months ago

Skipper, did you attend an LHS baseball game this season? If so, which game or games did you see?

dougmarshall 8 years, 11 months ago

Skipper, without Aaron Rae they don't make the state tournmament. Without Chris Parker they don't make the state tournament. Who cares? We all know what a stud Minnis is. Minnis has another year and if he starts thinking he's bigger than the team, do you think they have a chance next year? We all get it, he is a stud and a very important part, but all of them made plays to keep the season going.

UnbiasedLionsfan 8 years, 11 months ago

The person in charge at 3 & 2 said the count for the tournament was 3000 so his best estimate for Lawrence High crowds was 1200. What an awesome turnout for a town that has two very good sports programs. Lawrence felt like a small town with all the supporters that were out for this tournament.

brett conrad 8 years, 11 months ago

Doug, my point is the best left handed pitcher in the state and a 4 hole hitter falls out of the sky onto an already good team and makes it a great team and you people talk about coaching, anybody could have coached that team. I noticed he is playing with the Barnstormers not with his "TEAM"

dougmarshall 8 years, 11 months ago

I got you skipper, I just don't agree. As I said, he is a stud. He's a major league talent probably. My point is a talent like that doesn't blend with a team that has been together for 10 years without some managment by the coaching staff. Credit also goes to Minnis for doing his part to "fit in". They had a good pitching staff already and he took them to the next level, but to say they would not have made it without him is too much. In my opinion.

Clickker 8 years, 11 months ago

"I got you skipper, I just don't agree. As I said, he is a stud. He's a major league talent probably. My point is a talent like that doesn't blend with a team that has been together for 10 years without some managment by the coaching staff. Credit also goes to Minnis for doing his part to “fit in”. They had a good pitching staff already and he took them to the next level, but to say they would not have made it without him is too much. In my opinion."

Sometimes that's what coaching is all about. Great point.

JayhawkCO 8 years, 11 months ago

cato_the_elder, I agree with you that the Lions had an outstanding coaching staff. However, if you actually followed the team and knew the interworkings of it, you would give credit where credit is due and know that Brad Stoll had nothing to do with the pitching staff. LHS has a wonderful pitching coach this year in former Jayhawk and FS Alum, Brandon Johnson. He was the one who worked day in and day out with those seven kids. Coach Johnson was the one who scouted every batter ahead of time and called every single pitch and made all the decisions regarding our pitching staff. See please be more informed if you are going to be handing out credit.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.