Raiders relievers steady in home-opening victory

Lawrence Raiders reliever Ryan Stagg delivers to the plate during the third inning against the Midwest Bruins on Tuesday, June 11, 2013 at Free State High School. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

Playing in town for the first time this summer, the Lawrence Raiders rode some steady relief pitching to a 5-3 victory over the Midwest Bruins Tuesday night at Free State High.

Raiders coach Brad Romme only planned on using starting pitcher Brandon Bell for six outs, with six games in three days on the horizon this weekend, but he decided to go to the bullpen an inning early after the Bruins took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. The Raiders’ Ryan Stagg entered in the second and pitched two innings of scoreless relief. Sam Hearnen threw the final four innings, striking out six batters without giving up a hit.

Hearnen hadn’t expected to throw quite that much, but his arm felt fresh and ready to go.

Said Raiders catcher Lee McMahon: “He came up clutch.”

Added Romme: “It was just jumping out of his hand tonight. He was great, and we’re gonna face some good baseball teams these next couple days (Friday through Saturday, at LHS). We’re gonna have to be good like that. Ryan Stagg was good, too, for six outs.”

The Bruins’ lead didn’t last long against Lawrence (3-3). Raiders leadoff hitter CJ Stuever got on with an infield single, then Kieran Severa and Shane Willoughby both reached on an error, with Stuever scoring from third on the second blunder. After Drew Green popped out, McMahon gave the Raiders a 3-2 lead with a two-run single to center field.

Hearnen said that first-inning response gave Lawrence all the momentum it needed.

“It’s important to answer,” he said.

Adam Rea’s one-out triple in the bottom of the fifth set the table for two more Raiders runs. Severa drove Rea home with an infield single, making it a 4-2 game. Then Willoughby plated Severa with a double for a 5-3 lead.

Hearnen gave up a leadoff walk (one of two bases on balls he allowed in the win) to Jonathan Mariani in the top of the sixth. After the pitcher’s throw to second didn’t record an out on a fielder’s choice, allowing Jacob Kirmer to reach first, Hearnen got three straight ground-outs. Mariani scored on an Austin Higgins grounder to third baseman Anthony Miele.

The Raiders, featuring upperclassmen from both Lawrence High and FSHS rosters, lost their first three games of the season before winning three straight. McMahon, who went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles, said the team is coming along.

“We’re starting to get in the groove, staring to get to know each other, because half the guys went to LHS and half to Free State,” the former Firebirds catcher said. “But we’re all becoming buddies and all figuring out how to play together.”

The Raiders play at 1:15 and 3:30 p.m. Friday at LHS, against the Fayetteville Bulldogs.

Lawrence Raiders 5, Midwest Bruins 3

Midwest 200 001 0 — 3 5 3

Lawrence 300 020 X — 5 8 0

W — Sam Hearnen. L — Brent Roberts

2B — Jacob Kirmer, Midwest; Shane Willoughby, Lawrence. 3B — Kirmer, Midwest; Adam Rea, Lawrence.

Lawrence highlights — Hearnen, 4 IP, 6 K, 2 BBs, 0 H; Lee McMahon, 2-for-3, 2 RBI; Rea, 1-for-2, R; Kieran Severa, 1-for-3, R, RBI; Willoughby, 1-for-3, R, RBI; Anthony Miele, 1-for-3; Ryan Cantrell, 1-for-3.