Michael Payne has developed a bit of a comfort level for playing at Kauffman Stadium.
On Saturday, the Van Horn senior had a performance at the plate some of the regular tenants of The K could stand to emulate. Payne went 4 for 4 with a three doubles and three RBIs. On the mound, he pitched two hitless innings in relief of ace Levi Kelsey to close out Van Horn’s 9-4 win over William Chrisman.
“When you get on the mound or out in the field, you get a little nervous,” Payne said. “But I’ve played three games here now, and I’m proud to go out with a win senior year.”
In Payne’s last at-bat, he went with an outside-corner pitch and stroked a two-run double to right field off Chrisman reliever Tanner Webb to cap a three-run sixth. Two batters earlier, Kelsey had bounced a run-scoring single through the right side.
“I just wanted to get the ball in play, get in some runs for my team,” Payne said.
Payne’s knock capped a 16-hit attack by the Falcons (4-7). In the first inning he pulled a two-out double down the third-base line to plate Kelsey, who had clubbed his own run-scoring double one out earlier.
Kelsey managed to get the win after scattering six hits, three walks, a hit batter and five wild pitches. He struck out the side to leave the bases loaded in the first, but Chrisman (4-7) came back in the second. With two outs, a strike three passed ball and the hit batter preceded Taylor Cox’s two-run double to left.
Van Horn reclaimed the lead for good in the second when Jordan Kroger scored on a strike three wild pitch by Chrisman starter Gannon Ogle and Nathan Ingold’s two-run double. Payne scored in the third on a throwing error following Cody Storey’s single.
“We were aggressive at the plate – that’s the bottom line,” Van Horn coach Jay Kolster said. “We had a great approach and were disciplined.
“Every inning we had baserunners, and that puts pressure on the pitcher. He had to pitch from the stretch, and we were able to run on them.”
When asked if he thought his team handled the Kauffman Stadium atmosphere well, Kolster said, “They’re odd enough not to know any better. It’s a fun group with a lot of personalities.”
Before Payne struck out four in his relief outing, Kelsey fanned seven in five innings. Kelsey’s errant pickoff throw to first in the third inning set up Cody Jackson’s RBI groundout, and a wild pitch with runners at the corners made it 6-4 in the fifth. Kelsey then walked Parker LaRoche with still nobody out, but got a strikeout and double-play grounder to escape further damage.
“I had to pull him early for the pitch count, but he’s had a couple one-hitters,” Kolster said of Kelsey. “Today he was all over the place.
“We made really good decisions where the ball should go,” he added of his team’s defense, which played errorless outside of Kelsey’s throw.
For Chrisman coach J.R. Wells, that fifth inning typified what hurt his team the most Saturday.
“Wasted opportunities,” he said. “We get guys on base, and we have to capitalize when there’s an opportunity.
Outside of Cox’s two-run double, the Bears went hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position.
“We had a great opportunity (in the first) and gave it away,” Wells said.
Ogle took the loss after allowing 12 hits and five earned runs in five innings. Cox had two hits for the Bears, while Kelsey finished with three and Storey two for the Falcons.