Lawrence High baseball coach Brad Stoll certainly felt some disappointment after watching his team suffer a second straight one-run loss on Tuesday in a 7-6 setback to Shawnee Mission Northwest at LHS, but he still didn't walk away with too many unanswered questions.
Stoll's squad was looking for some answers to crack the code to SM Northwest starter George Specht — who limited the Lions to three runs on three hits, while striking out seven and walking two — but LHS figured him out, slowly but surely.
Hank Dobson sparked a four-run rally with a one-out single, which also knocked Specht out of the game. Northwest reliever Evan Higgins was able to retire Garrett Romero for the second out, but the Lions kept the line moving to send the game to extra innings.
Lawrence High baseball vs. SM Northwest
Lawrence High erased a four-run deficit in the seventh, but lost to Shawnee Mission Northwest, 7-6, in eight innings on Tuesday at LHS.
"I'll never question their toughness. I'll never question their heart," Stoll said. "I'll never question their grit. Sometimes you worry about kids when they lose two one-run ballgames that it might be too much for them, but not this group. These kids are tough, they're hard-nosed and they're gutsy."
Payton Cummin's RBI single was sandwiched between walks to Caleb Mondi and Andrew Stewart, which brought Reese Carmona to the plate as the winning run. Carmona slapped a single to center to bring in Mondi and Cummins. All of a sudden, the Cougars' lead was down to 6-5.
"He's been starting since he was a sophomore. He's done that more times than not," said Stoll of Carmona. "He's a great player. He's a tough little guy. I think this whole dugout feels very confident when he's at the plate."
The clutch hit was just a small part of a big day for Carmona, who verbally committed on Tuesday to continue his baseball career at Johnson County Community College.
"I'm very excited that I committed there. It was a little late, but I'm glad to get it off my shoulders," Carmona said. "I'm just going to have fun and focus on winning, getting to state and then winning a state title."
Carmona's competitive drive was apparent when he tried to score on a wild pitch from Jordan Linderer, but he was tagged out at the plate to end the inning.
"I was just trying to be aggressive. They had just brought in a new guy and he was throwing a little harder," Carmona said. "I messed up. I took the bat out of Devin's (Lauts) hands."
While the Lions had worked hard to get Specht off the mound, they weren't able to take the bat out of his hands in the top of the eighth. Specht delivered an RBI single to right that broke the 6-6 tie.
Specht and Ethan Taylor both received no decisions despite throwing six-plus innings. Taylor allowed four runs on nine hits over six frames. The LHS right-hander struck out one and walked one.
"Two weeks ago against one of the more impressive teams we've seen in a long time in Blue Springs (Mo.), he was throwing his fastball and his breaking ball with intent. Last week against Olathe South, his arm speed was down and I don't think he was as aggressive," said Stoll of Taylor. "So we challenged him to throw every pitch with intent.
"He had a little bit more giddy-up on his fastball and his breaking ball was a lot sharper. The command of his change-up was really nice. That was the challenge to him, and I think that's what led to his success. He's getting stronger every outing."
Taylor is exactly a year removed from a surgery that repaired a ligament in his elbow. He is another reason why Stoll believes that the Lions won't take long to flip the script after the one-run losses to Rockhurst and SM Northwest.
"It's amazing how far he's come," said Stoll of Taylor. "He's going to win us some big ballgames in the postseason, no doubt."
The Lions (7-10) will try to bounce back at 5:30 p.m. Thursday when they play host to SM East.
SMNW 000 103 21 — 7 12 1
LHS 000 002 4 — 6 5 1
W — Jordan Linderer. L — Riley Turpin. SV — Josh Mitchell.
2B — Jacob Ramirez, Josh Mitchell, Nikki Chomyak, George Specht, SMNW; Andrew Stewart, LHS.
LHS highlights: Reese Carmona 1-for-3, 2 RBI, BB; Andrew Stewart 1-for-3, RBI, BB, 2 runs; Payton Cummins 2-for-3, RBI, run; Ethan Taylor 6.0 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 3 ER, K, BB.