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Bouncing back: Ex-Jaguar Lightner rebounds in summer after injury-shortened college season

Cody Thorn
Special to The Examiner
Former Blue Springs South pitcher Brandt Lightner is excelling in the Ban Johnson League this summer after an injury- and pandemic-shortened sophomore season with Park University.

Brandt Lightner entered a Ban Johnson League game last Friday in a very unique situation.

The left-handed relief pitcher for Regal Plastics – a Blue Springs South graduate – went to the mound in the top of the fifth inning trying to keep a no-hitter intact.

He also had to help limit the damage as the Ban Johnson Raiders held a 3-2 lead after taking advantage of walks and errors in the contest at Missouri 3&2 Complex in Kansas City.

Lightner sat the league-leading Raiders down in order in the fifth. The bats came alive in the bottom half of the inning and Vincent Tinoco’s RBI hit gave Regal Plastic a 4-3 lead, which was the final score.

With the lead back for the first time since the first inning, Lightner worked a scoreless sixth inning. The junior-to-be at Park University got a quick out before loading the bases with three straight walks.

Then, he got a tailor-made ground ball to start a 6-4-3 double play to escape the inning.

Lightner got the victory on the mound, while Mason Majors (Staley High School/Richmond University) got the save despite walking two in the final inning.

“I didn’t know at the time it was a no-hitter,” said Lightner, who relieved starter Bill Cain, an Oak Grove graduate who threw the first four innings and gave up three runs. “I got home and people were talking about it. I wasn’t even thinking about it (the no-hitter) when I came in to pitch. I just knew we were down.”

Regal Plastic won that game and then beat Building Champions on Sunday to move to 13-9 on the year and have won four in a row.

Lightner improved to 3-0 on the year with the victory in only seven appearances. The 6-foot-4 hurler has struck out 14 in 11 2/3 innings under the guidance of coach Clint Culbertson.

The former MCC-Longview coach is now the pitching coach at Park, where he has worked with the former Blue Springs South all-state southpaw. Lightner is 1-1 in two years with the Pirates.

He was 1-0 this year in five games – one start – but shoulder inflammation put a halt to his season after a game against Kansas Christian College on March 7. He was rehabbing the injury when the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the remainder of the season.

He did some long toss during the down time and got on the mound for the first time again on June 17 for Regal Plastic.

“When summer came around I was ready to play,” he said. “I won’t say it was the most excited I’d been, but I hadn’t felt that ready to play for a while.”

When school resumes this fall, it will be the final school year academically for Lightner, an All-America Midwest Conference academic honoree this spring. He entered college with 24 credit hours and is on track to graduate in construction management.

Then, he plans on sticking around Parkville to play two more years and get his master’s degree.

Brandt was 7-1 with a 2.07 ERA for Blue Springs South to earn second-team all-state honors in 2018 while helping lead the Jaguars to a Class 5 third-place state finish.

Coming out of high school, the former all-conference, all-district and Examiner All-Area pick chose Park over Hannibal-LaGrange, Central Methodist and Pittsburg State.

He enjoys working with Culbertson, whom he played for last summer as well with Regal Plastic. They are taking advantage of the extra time together away from college ball.

“He’s a left-handed pitcher with a funny arm angle and he competes really well,” Culbertson said of Lightner. “He had success in high school and the big moments don’t tend to make him nervous.”