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Former Bronco Lankford finds the 'right fit' for him

Cody Thorn
Special to The Examiner
Dylan Lankford, a Lee's Summit North graduate, pitches from the stretch for the Creche Innovation Stars in the Ban Johnson League this summer. Lankford is transferring from Maryville University to Rockhurst University to pitch and play outfield.

After a year away from home, Dylan Lankford is coming back to the Kansas City area.

The Lee’s Summit North High School graduate played baseball his freshman year at Maryville University in St. Louis.

He, along with many other freshmen from this past year, decided to leave the program. Lankford is one of nine to move on from the Saints, a Division II team that competes in the Great Lakes Valley.

As it turns out, Lankford will now be playing against his former teammates and coach.

Last week, Lankford announced his intentions to play baseball at Rockhurst University, picking the Hawks over an offer from Avila University.

“I chose Rockhurst because degree-wise, I’m going into physical therapy and follow that path and they are an accredited school for it,” said Lankford, a 2019 graduate from Lee’s Summit North.

He will be an outfielder and left-handed pitcher for Rockhurst, two positions he says the team was looking for depth.

Lankford is looking to get back on the field on a regular basis after the past two springs.

This year, he got two at-bats in pinch-hitting roles and then pitched in one game for the Saints. Then, the season was called off after 17 games due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As a senior in high school, Lankford tossed a no-hitter against Springfield Parkview on March 29 and two games later, he tore his ACL trying to make a catch in center field, slipping on the artificial surface.

He spent all last summer and the fall recovering from the surgery. Lankford was cleared to play this spring but didn’t travel on the Saints’ first road trip.

That was one of two missed high school seasons. As a sophomore, he lost games due to having an emergency appendectomy.

He was one of 15 freshmen on the Maryville roster this spring and eight of those have transferred to new schools. His roommate, Brock Stewart from Lee’s Summit West, was among the group to leave as well.

“It wasn’t a fun environment for me or a whole lot of other players,” he said. “We all signed up and expected one thing … then we realized there were some false promises. It didn’t feel like the right fit.”

The coaching aspect wasn’t the only reason Lankford chose to leave. He also wanted to be closer to family. He has epilepsy and proximity to Lee’s Summit was comforting.

Lankford got to make up for some missed at-bats and innings this summer while playing for Creche Innovation Stars in the Ban Johnson League. It was his first time playing in the collegiate summer league and he got to reconnect with Kyle Clifton. In high school, Lankford took hitting lessons from Clifton, a former Truman standout who became an NAIA All-American at Park University.

Lankford was primarily an outfielder for the Stars and hit .288 and had a .413 on-base percentage after his watchful eye that helped him draw a walk every six at-bats.

“Dylan is a tremendous athlete that definitely has the potential to be a weapon both on the mound and at the plate,” Clifton said. “I’m excited to see which way he leans as he continues to grow. He’s a fierce competitor that translates both on and off the field, from overcoming his knee surgery to the hitting sessions we have on the side. He’s constantly perfecting his craft and soaking up knowledge provided to him. The Stars and myself are happy that he landed on our roster, and I’m sure Rockhurst feels the same.”

Late in the season, when some players headed back home to their respective colleges, Lankford got time on the mound. He fanned eight in a six-inning effort as a starter and had a 3.50 ERA.

His fastball sits in the mid 80s, using both four- and two-seam fastballs. He also mixes in a changeup and curveball.

“It was an awesome summer,” said Lankford, who played for Inside Edge-Silvestri in high school in the summer. “The Ban Johnson League was super competitive but it was not too serious. It was loose and fun while competing with each other. For me, I will do it again.”