Eight years ago, this clipping from The Kansas City Star, appeared in the paper June 9, 2007. The MCC-Longview Lakers baseball team pulled out a win to take the NJCAA division II national championship title.
MCC- Longview Lakers Win National Title
Cole Young, The Kansas City Star, June 9, 2007, LS16.
When Clint Culbertson took over the baseball head coaching job at Longview Community College, he had a pretty simple plan.
“I’ve maintained throughout this that there are some good kids from Kansas City who get overlooked,” Culbertson said. “We made sure we weren’t going to overlook them.”
The first-year Longview coach used that strategy of playing local players to guide the Lakers to the National Junior College Athletics Association Division II national championship on June 1.
Using a roster sprinkled with players from Blue Springs, North Kansas City, Raymore, Liberty and other Kansas City areas, the Lakers won 10 of their last 11 games, earning the national title with a 5-4 win over Kellog (Mich.) Community College.
“The Kansas City kids enjoy the fact that the team is based on players who have played against or with each other,” Culbertson said.
Longview finished its season with a 41-18 record.
Five Lee’s Summit/Southland area players were part of the national championship squad.
Drew Gray, a Harrisonville graduate, was the starting catcher this season. At 6-foot-5 inches, Gray was an atypical catcher, with above average results.
“He’s just a special player,” Culbertson said. “You don’t see many guys his size catching. He’s a quiet leader for us. He changed the game on the defensive side. No one tried to steal against us.”
In the semifinals against Kellog, Gray had three RBIs, two hits and two runs scored.
From the fourth spot in the lineup, he also homered in the semifinals.
“Rarely do you see that combination of a guy that can change the game on both sides like Drew,” Culbertson said
Sam Rathbun, a Lee’s Summit graduate, was part of the Lakers’ starting pitching staff.
Other area players on the roster were Lee’s Summit West’s Seth Pry, Lee’s Summit’s Brandon Polk and Kyle Dahman a graduate from Raymore-Peculiar.
After starting the season playing .500 baseball, the Lakers caught fire near the middle of March. During their hot stretch, they won 18 of 19 games.
“We had some peaks and valleys,” Culbertson said. “The streak we had really pushed us over the top.”