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.