Platte County softball books state return with comeback vs. Pleasant Hill

Platte County shortstop Jesse Hoover leads the Pirates' celebratory sprint after the post-game handshake following a 6-5 victory against Pleasant Hill on Oct. 18 at Platte County High School. With the mistakes piling up, Rob Davenport sent his players down the right-field line for an impromptu meeting.

Platte County’s coach sensed opportunity slipping away, and his message prior to the bottom of the fourth inning resonated Oct. 18 at Platte County High School. The Pirates scored five times in the ensuing half inning, taking advantage of an increasingly sloppy Pleasant Hill defense, on the way to a 6-5 victory in a Class 3 quarterfinal matchup.

After a challenging two years of postseasons in Class 4 that included a playoff berth in 2012, Platte County returns to the state semifinals for the first time since 2009.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Platte County sophomore Tori Farr hits a ball Saturday Oct. 18 at Platte County High School in a Class 3 Softball quarterfinal against Pleasant Hill. The Pirates won the game 6-5, earning them a trip to the state semifinals in Springfield, Mo. Platte County faces Monett at 10 a.m., Friday, Oct. 24.

“I’m still shaking. We all had nerves, but we fought through it as a team,” Pirates senior shortstop Jesse Hoover said.

Platte County (24-6) finally started to solve Chicks left-handed starter Courtney Fountain and her proliferation of changeups on her second time through the order.

In the bottom of the third inning, the Pirates loaded the bases, but Pleasant Hill (22-9) recorded the final out by picking a runner off first with junior center fielder Alexis Ray at the plate with a two-strike count — the second runner lost on the basepaths in three innings. The Chicks increased their lead to 5-1 in the top of the fourth on Fountain’s two-RBI triple.

Pleasant Hill scored its first two runs to take a 2-0 lead with help from two Platte County errors, and only three of the five scored against Pirates starter Malllory Stoner were earned.

“It felt like at the beginning, the first few innings before we got the rally started, we were all really nervous and not relaxed,” Ray said. “Once we got that inning and we were up by one, it just loosened everyone up, and we could play our game.”

Ray again faced two strikes when she came back up in the fourth. This time, she waited back on a changeup and laced it into to the right-field corner for a leadoff triple.

Pleasant Hill went on to commit three of its eight errors in the inning, and Platte County closed to within 5-4, starting with an RBI single Tori Farr (2-for-3) dumped into shallow left field. Third baseman Lindsey Bogart hit a hard fly ball to right field with the bases loaded and still no one out, but the Chicks fielded and threw out a runner at home trying to score after tagging up for the first two outs.

Stoner (2-for-3) followed with a sharp two-RBI single to left field to plate the tying and winning runs. The rally all started after

Davenport called the players together for the meeting with a simple message.

“What I told them is what I was seeing out there was heads-down disappointment,” said Davenport, who recorded his 200th career coaching vitory earlier this season. “I said, ‘Right now is when you show what kind of character you have. You can fold and go home, or you can start battling and take one run at a time and do your job.’

“We can’t score three at a time. Each girl has to get base hits and do one at a time, and that’s what we did that inning.”

Platte County did respond and added this team to the list of all-time best for the Pirates, going back to the semifinals for the first time since three straight trips from 2007-2009 (fourth-, first- and third-place finishes).

Stoner worked out of a jam in fifth and then put up two stress-free innings to close out the victory, finishing with eight strikeouts.

Still yet to lose against a Class 3 opponent this year, Platte County faces Monett (25-3) at 10 a.m. Oct. 24 in one semifinal at Killian Softball Complex in Springfield, Mo. The teams met up this year in the title game of the Carthage Invitational with the Pirates taking an 11-1 victory to win the tournament championship for the first time.

Mexico and DeSoto play in the other semifinal with the third-place game slated for 1 p.m., later in the day and the championship at 10 a.m., Oct. 25.