Lions’ ace returns; O-North pitcher steals show

Lawrence High starter Bryce Montes de Oca delivers to the plate against an Olathe North batter during the second inning, Thursday, April 10, 2014 at Free State High School.

Lawrence High senior right-hander Bryce Montes de Oca had fans and Major League scouts buzzing with his sizzling 95-mph fastballs in the first inning on Thursday at LHS. Olathe North lefty Hunter Fox didn’t attract as much attention, but he left opposing hitters fuming.

The Lions were puzzled at the plate against Fox, a soft-throwing lefty, in a 5-2 loss to the Eagles. Fox gave up just six hits in a complete game.

“Those soft lefties are a hard thing to hit and we just didn’t take the right approach to the plate,” LHS senior Ryan Walter said. “We knew what we had to do, just didn’t get it done.”

The Lions (4-3) came back from a two-run deficit to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth inning before the Eagles (2-3) broke through in the seventh.

After a leadoff single, LHS reliever Daonte Lowery left a fastball up to O-North freshman Dalton Doyle, who crushed the pitch in the left-center gap for a run-scoring double. The Eagles added two more runs through an error and a wild pitch.

Meanwhile, Fox didn’t allow the Lions to square up the ball. With the wind blowing in, Fox forced hitters into 14 popups and flyouts while only striking out one and walking none.

“Hats off to their kid,” LHS coach Brad Stoll said. “Their little left-hander did a good job and kept us in check all night. He did a really good job and we just were not very good at the plate tonight.

“That’s my fault,” Stoll added. “I didn’t have them prepared to hit against the soft throwing lefty. That’s on me.”

The Lions only had four baserunners against Fox before a one-out single by junior Michael Sinks in the sixth inning. Sinks moved to third on a single from Drew Green and scored when Ryan Walter slapped a single past the third baseman. Green scored in the next at-bat when Jacob Seratte grounded into a fielder’s choice.

“After popping up twice, it was good to finally hit one on the ground,” Walter said. “Just get that run in and give us hope.”

Montes de Oca made his season debut, pitching 1 1/3 innings on a strict pitch count in his first outing since April 4, 2013, after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He was allowed to throw between 25 and 35 pitches on Thursday and his limit will increase by 10 pitches each week.

The 6-foot-8, 270-pound starter was wild, giving up two runs after walking two and hitting another. However, he struck out the last two batters he faced and the only hit he allowed was a bunt single.

“After I settled down, I was very happy with my outing,” said Montes de Oca, who was clocked in the mid-90s in front of more than two dozen scouts. “That’s more of what I’ve been and will be in the future.”

Stoll added: “The next time the big fella goes out there, he’s going to be fine. He was so amped up. That was his first outing in a year. Sure too many free passes, but we’ve got to be able to bail some people out offensively. We’ve been scoring too few runs and that’s not acceptable.”

The Lions will go on the road to play Shawnee Mission South at 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday.

O-North 200 000 3 — 5 4 0

Lawrence 000 002 0 — 2 6 3

W — Hunter Fox. L –Daonte Lowery (1-2).

2B — Dalton Doyle, O-North; Drew Green, LHS.

LHS highlights — Green, 2-for-2, run, stolen base; Lowery, 4.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K.