RIVERSIDE, Mo. — Jacob Thigpen took to the mound against rival Park Hill in a role much different than the one envisioned for him at the start of the season.
The Park Hill South junior — now the ace of the Panthers’ staff — was charged with keeping the momentum going for Park Hill South, now on a five-game winning streak. Thigpen retired 14 straight at one point in a 7-4 win Monday, May 11 at Park Hill South High School, finishing off a regular season sweep of the Trojans.
“I was pitching with quite a bit of confidence,” Thigpen said. “I knew we were only down one. I knew since we have great hitting we would pull through and get some hits and RBIs.”
Thigpen was thrust into the top pitching role following season-ending injuries to returning starters Jacob Purl and Eli Patterson, who tore his ACL in March. Purl will miss the rest of the season after being hit with a thrown ball in the face during a recent practice, which resulted in a broken right orbital bone.
Purl pitched a perfect game on April 1 against Platte County — the first unblemished game in Park Hill South history. He signed to play baseball at Kansas City Kansas Community College before the injury.
Patterson who signed to play baseball at Lindenwood University (St. Charles) missed the whole season.
“It’s something to see,” Park Hill South coach Ryan Walker said. “I told Purl and Patterson today — the two kids I thought we would have going into districts as our one and two pitchers — I thought we had a good shot to go a long way with them. Once they got hurt, other kids steped up. I felt good with Thigpen on the mound. I feel good with (Kyle) Hagen on the mound.”
The fifth straight win vaulted Park Hill South to 18-7 overall, 6-2 in Suburban Conference Red Division play entering a doubleheader with Truman scheduled for Wednesday, May 13. The Panthers have won 10 of their past 12 since a league loss to St. Joseph Central in extra innings back on April 14.
The comeback win against Park Hill kept an outside shot of a share of the league crown with Liberty (8-1 going into a Tuesday, May 12 matchup with Truman).
Park Hill struck first, scoring a run in the top of the first inning without a hit off of Hagen, who started the matchup and has also missed time with an injury.
Thigpen came on in the second inning to relieve Park Hill South’s rehabbing starter and allowed three more runs on six hits over the final six frames. The Trojans took a 2-1 lead in the top of the second before Thigpen retired 14 straight at one point to provide the opening for a comeback.
“We stranded a lot of runners there in the first couple innings,” Park Hill coach Greg Reynolds said. “That’s kind of par for the course. For us to score two innings, we hadn’t been doing that very often. We were pleased with that.”
Park Hill starter Kyle Francis — a Central Missouri signee — allowed just three hits in the first five innings before a troublesome sixth. The Panthers sent 11 batters to the plate, chasing him with four earned runs allowed.
Park Hill South right fielder Richard Fullerton led off the inning with a double — one of three hits for the senior. Thigpen helped his own cause with a game-tying RBI single and came around to score three batters later when Codey Land drew a bases-loaded walk to put the Panthers up for the first time. Carter Hedrick followed with an RBI single before a sacrifice fly from Easton Fortuna.
Fullerton grabbed his third hit of the day, plating the final two runs on an RBI single to left-centerfield that made it 7-2.
“We had a little case of the ‘try-to-hards’ there,” Walker said. “We got down. Their pitcher Kyle Francis threw the ball extremely well. We were out in front of a lot of stuff. We were trying way too hard to hit the ball out of the park instead of just for base hits. I knew after the first at bat of the (sixth) inning, we had something going.”
Park Hill rallied in the top of the seventh but only plated two.
Carter Kreutzinger led off the inning with a single. Parker Sampson doubled over Fullerton’s head in right field before a two-out two-RBI single from freshman Liam Henry. Clayton Cole singled bringing the tying run to the plate, but Thigpen responded with a strikeout — his sixth of the day and third of the inning.
Park Hill South earned the No. 2 seed for the Class 5 District 16 tournament, which starts Saturday, May 16 at Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Mo. The Panthers have a first-round bye and await the winner between St. Joseph Central and Oak Park in a semifinal set for 5:30 p.m. on Monday, May 18.
Platte County 12, Winnetonka 4
The Pirates kept hopes alive for a Suburban Conference Blue Division title behind a seven-run third inning Monday, May 11 in Kansas City, Mo.
Jerod Thomas’ two-run double highlighted the big inning, which staked Platte County to a 9-0 lead. The Pirates scored in each of the first four innings and a took an 11-2 advantage into the seventh inning.
Grant Carver allowed the two runs in his six innings of work, striking out four while walking one.
Platte County finished with 15 hits, while three Winnetonka pitchers combined to walk five. Both teams committed a trio of errors. Thomas doubled twice and scored twice, while center fielder Colton Horn went 2-for-2 with a double two walks and three runs scored.
Justin Mitchell doubled and scored twice, while Kodee Martin scored two and drove in three. Matt Mefford went 3-for-5.
Platte County played Kearney on Tuesday, May 12, but the result was not available at The Citizen’s deadline. The Pirates won the first meeting between the two teams but needed a win to take the crown outright. The regular season concludes Wednesday, May 13 against St. Joseph Central.
In the Class 5 District 16 tournament, Platte County (15-10, 8-1 Suburban Red) received the No. 4 seed in the six-team bracket and faces Park Hill at noon on Saturday, May 16 at Park Hill High School. Platte County won both of the regular season meetings between the two teams, and the winner advances to play top-seeded Staley at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, May 18.
Platte County 2, Grandview 0
Mefford allowed only three hits while striking out eight in a complete game Wednesday, May 6 in Grandview, Mo. He also walked four while throwing 98 pitches.
Platte County needed the performance, unable to score until the top of the sixth while only recording three hits. Thomas doubled to start the frame and went to third on Max Hunter’s groundout. Martin and Mitchell then each drove in a run without a hit.
Grandview committed three errors.