It might have come a couple weeks late, but Lawrence High’s baseball team rolled out its new state-of-the-art facility in style Thursday night.
After a first attempt to christen the new stadium on March 26 was thwarted due to delays in construction, the Lions managed to give the field a proper grand opening this time around, rolling to a 7-5 victory over visiting Shawnee Mission North in their first true home game since winning last year’s Class 6A state title.
“I told them before the game, when you’re my age and you’re sitting around with your buddies drinking, uh, Diet Coke, you’ll be saying ‘Hey, we won the first game ever on the new baseball field,’” said LHS coach Brad Stoll. “And they did that, so I’m really proud of them.”
Thursday’s game certainly had a festive feel, the result of a dense crowd and a number of pregame promotions.
And while the complex is still not completely finished — the most noticeable issue being a lack of completed dugouts — there weren’t many complaints from the players.
“I can’t really explain it,” said Lawrence High pitcher Alex Laughlin, who gave up three runs in five innings to earn the victory. “There was quite a bit of buzz, just wanting to get that first win (here).”
Before they could celebrate a successful opening night, though, the Lions had to hold off a frisky SM North team.
Despite entering the game with an 0-3 record, the Indians threatened to spoil the evening for Lawrence High, using a three-run second inning to take an early 3-1 lead and managing to keep things close throughout the evening by taking advantage of a handful of LHS miscues.
Facing a 7-3 deficit in the top of the sixth inning, for instance, a Lawrence High throwing error with two outs kept the SM North inning alive, as the Indians plated two runs to pull to within two, 7-5.
But Lions reliever Ben Wyatt settled down to get out of the inning without any further damage and made short work of the Indians in the top of the seventh to close out the game.
“I could have done better,” Wyatt said, “but we got the job done.”
They also provided a warm welcome to a facility that figures to become a staple of the area baseball scene.
“It’s already a first-class facility,” Stoll said. “And when we get the dugouts and other amenities around here, man, it’s gonna be one of the best facilities in the Midwest. So I’m ultra-proud of it, and I’m ultra-thankful for what we have. We’re very fortunate.”