It was an absolutely gorgeous evening in Peculiar Monday night as the Raymore-Peculiar Panthers hosted Lee’s Summit North in a 3-1 baseball victory for the home team.
Hunter Phillips took the mound for the Panthers and the left-hander has been nothing but solid this season. He showed absolute dominance early on. In the top of the first, Phillips allowed no hits or runs on two strikeouts over just thirteen pitches.
In the bottom half of the first inning, the Broncos’ starter and Phillips’ counterpart, came out even stronger by getting his team back to the dugout on just eight pitches.
The leadoff batter for the Broncos reached first in the top of the second on a four-pitch walk from Phillips, an undesirable start for any inning. However, Phillips got himself out of trouble by striking out the next three batters– all swinging. His pitch count was at 35 after two innings of work, but he already accrued five strikeouts without allowing a hit.
Ray-Pec couldn’t get anyone across the plate in their half of the second. Not being able to take advantage of a couple of questionable calls, the Panthers left two runners on base and the score remained 0-0 heading into the third.
Phillips kept up his dominance on the mound by blanking two more Broncos and getting a pop-out to finish the top-half of the third.
With one out in the home half, Storm Rynard finally busted the home team into the hit column by smacking a double into deep left field. After taking third on a wild pitch, Turner Wehmeyer walked and stole second while Austyn Cochran reached first to load the bases. Jake Scribner sent a sacrifice fly to deep left-center field to score Rynard and Ray-Pec took a 1-0 lead. Josh Scribner flew out to center to end the inning.
The fourth inning started off much like the second for Phillips, as a leadoff walk put the Panthers in some danger. The southpaw on the mound was able to work his team out of trouble once again, however, by getting a pop-up, a throw-out on a steal attempt at second, and yet another strikeout. Through four full innings, Phillips tossed 61 pitches, gathered eight strikeouts, and allowed no hits.
After the Panthers left another two men on base without scoring a run in their half of the fourth, it was up to Phillips to keep the Broncos in check in the fifth. After getting a groundout from the leadoff batter, Phillips worked a pop-up and a strikeout to end the inning.
In the bottom half, Wehmeyer singled for Ray-Pec and Austyn Cochran reached on an error before anyone made an out. Two wild pitches brought in another home team run and Josh Scribner singled in another to give the Panthers a comfortable 3-0 lead. North was able to work out of some serious trouble and kept the score the same heading into the sixth inning.
The Broncos’ first batter in the sixth ruined the no-hit bid from Phillips. A strongly hit ball into left field off of Phillips’ 78th pitch was sufficient for a double and spoiled the streak. A base on balls given to the next batter called for a mound visit as Phillips regained his focus. The next batter grounded out, followed by a sacrifice fly that scored the Broncos first run, and a pop-out to center field. The top of the sixth ended with Raymore-Peculiar holding on to a 3-1 lead.
North fielded a new pitcher in the bottom of the sixth who gave up a single into right field off the bat of Cort Lesmeister on just the second pitch he threw. The Panthers were unable to get anything else out of the inning and headed to the seventh with no more insurance runs.
Surprisingly, Hunter Phillips took the mound for Ray-Pec again in the seventh. With his pitch count at 96, the senior worked with another leadoff walk by striking out the second batter and getting a fly-out to right field. Phillips walked the fourth batter he faced and was pulled from the game. Ben Harris replaced him on the mound and shut the door on the Broncos by getting a fly-out and leaving the tying run on base.
Phillips finished with 121 pitches over 6 2/3 innings, tallying ten strikeouts against just a single hit. Eight of the nine Lee’s Summit North starters fell victim to Phillips’ strikeout and he received the well-deserved win.
“It was a good team effort,” Phillips said after the game. “Going into it I didn’t think I’d do as well as I did.”
The calm and collected senior didn’t get over-excited about his hot start that looked like it could turn into once-in-a-lifetime experience. “I never really think no-hitter, I just go with the flow,” he continued.
Head Coach Gary Renshaw was very pleased with his starter’s performance. “Early on we like to go around sixty to sixty-five [pitches],” the coach said, speaking to Phillips’ high pitch count. “Later on we tend to not let them go over a hundred, but with Hunter, and it being a warm day, his arm was ready to go…he was fine and he was throwing well.”
“Every time he has pitched for us he has thrown really well and kept us in the game,” he continued.
With Districts quickly approaching, the pitching and timely hitting will have to continue.
“We really like our pitching staff…we just hadn’t gotten that key hit to score runs,” said Renshaw. “You want to be playing your best ball going into districts and we are there now.”
“Everyone is playing great,” said Phillips. “I expect us to win districts.”