BELTON — It’s rare to see four innings of baseball played in less than one hour at any level. It’s also rare to see a team that’s trailing leave three men on base late in a game, only to get a second chance and win the contest. Both of those things happened on Monday afternoon, however, as the Raymore-Peculiar Panthers won a tight game over the Belton Pirates.
“I had a feeling we were going to come back,” Ray-Pec head coach Gary Renshaw said. “This group’s kind of that way.”
Though the game was decided in the top of the sixth inning when the Panthers scored both of their runs, the bottom of the sixth featured a defensive play by Ray-Pec’s catcher Josh Scribner that boosted his team. With two outs and a man on base, a Belton batter swung through a pitch off the hand of starter Ben Harris and popped it into foul territory. The ball didn’t travel far, and it would only be seconds before it hit the ground. Scribner instinctively flipped off his mask and dove head first, snagging the ball before it hit the dirt.
“For a pitcher, getting me out of that inning so we get to go hit, that’s just huge,” Harris said after the game.
After the play was over, the entire Ray-Pec bench met Scribner on his way off of the field yelling out phrases like, “That’s a big time play!” Harris was seen mouthing the word “Beautiful!” to one of his coaches.
In the bottom half of the seventh inning with the Panthers looking to protect a slim one-run lead, the heat and fatigue got to Harris and he was pulled after hitting a batter and getting a groundout. Junior Evan Rathburn entered the game, and though the baserunner got to third, the Pirates stayed at bay and Raymore-Peculiar cruised to victory.
“I feel like we’re playing really good baseball,” Renshaw said.
“Our offense is coming along, with our defense. Our starting pitching has always been there.”
The key difference for the Panthers now as compared to the beginning of the year is that there is more time between games, allowing key starting pitchers to get more rest. Harris, along with fellow juniors Rathburn and Kyle Wilson were making the starts early on, but since then Harris and Wilson have settled into starting roles and Rathburn has established himself as the closer. As evidenced Monday, the formula is working quite well.
Freshman infielder Andrew Houston has developed a storyline of his own this season, making a name for himself on the diamond. When starting third baseman Logan Moore was forced to sit out earlier in the year due to surgery, Houston was called on to fill the void.
In his first big appearance on varsity, the underclassman went 3-6 on a Saturday doubleheader in the Lawrence Tournament. Houston hit two doubles and stole three bases on the day as his team won each of those games.
On Monday, Houston drove in what would prove to be the winning run in that crucial sixth inning.
Senior Chase Graf had the other RBI on the day for Ray-Pec. Josh Scribner was 2-2 with a walk.
“We’ve won five of six, so we’re playing pretty well right now and Districts is coming around so we have to keep winning,” said Harris.
“This was a good win, but it was an ugly win.”