Entering its season-opening doubleheader with visiting Shawnee Mission North on Thursday, the Lawrence High softball team figured its new — and long-awaited — state-of-the-art facility would provide a home-field advantage of sorts.
Instead, it might have done more harm than good.
Unable to use the lights that surround the field because they haven’t yet met specifications consistent with an agreement between the school district and the Centennial Neighborhood Association, the teams’ second game Thursday night was called after five innings due to a lack of daylight, sending the Lions home with a narrow 3-2 loss and ruffling the feathers of the team’s longtime coach.
“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that we have to end a varsity softball game in the fifth inning because we can’t turn on lights that we have,” Lawrence High’s Reenie Stogsdill said. “It hurts the girls more than anything. We have a chance to come back and win a game, but we can’t because we can’t turn the lights on.”
Following the game, LHS athletic director Ron Commons indicated the lighting issue stems from a failure to pass a “performance grid test,” which measures the stadium’s on-field lighting as well as the manner in which it extends beyond the field, where a number of residential homes are located.
“I’m not sure exactly what has failed on the softball (field), I just know that it hasn’t passed,” Commons said. “So the light company that installed those has to come back and aim some of the bulbs at a different angle so that it meets specifications, and once that happens, we’ll be able to use the lights.”
Had the lights been available Thursday, Lawrence High might have been able to avoid a disappointing start to its season.
After dropping the first game of the day, 4-2, the Lions came out firing in the nightcap, out-hitting the visiting Indians 6-4 and putting themselves in a favorable position after tying the game at 2 with a two-run third inning that included extra-base hits from Jamie Jarrett, Lauren Massey and Kasey Waite.
Before the start of the fifth inning, however, with the game still tied at 2, both teams’ coaches met with the umpires and decided that, due to the quickly approaching nightfall, they’d play one more inning before calling the game.
The Indians (2-0) promptly manufactured a run in the top of the inning off a B.J. Specht leadoff single, while the Lions couldn’t answer in the bottom of the inning despite having two runners reach base.
“It’s always hard to get that close and not get it,” said Massey, who pitched both games for the Lions (0-2). “There were a lot of times we had some people on base, but we just couldn’t score.”
While the lighting issues represented a slight black mark to the field’s christening, the complex’s presence still warranted plenty of excitement from the team’s players, who in the past have been relegated to off-campus facilities for practice and games.
“It’s wonderful to be at your school playing,” Massey said. “It’s a great facility, and it’s great to have it here.”
Added Stogsdill: “I’ve been doing this for a lot of years, and I can’t tell you what it’s like to have our own field on campus. The girls can take ownership of it, and once it’s finished, it will be a great place to play softball.”