O’FALLON, Mo. — For West Platte’s seniors, a run-rule loss to eventual Class 2 state champions Valle Catholic on Wednesday, June 3 proved to be their final game in a Bluejays uniform. West Platte arrived for a scheduled third-place game on Thursday, June 4 to find a tarp-covered infield with off-and-on rain pelting down. The Bluejays warmed up in the batting cage before Missouri State High School Activities Association officials met with both coaches and cancelled the game. To know that the game yesterday was my last game was tough,” West Platte senior Clay Lambrecht said after the decision was made. “I was looking forward to another one to go out on a good note, but yesterday’s loss ended up being my last high school game.”
West Platte and Norwood will share the third-place finish in the state record books. The Bluejays were back in the state semifinals for the second time in three years with six players back who started in the 2013 state championship game loss to Hartville.
The other team trophy for West Platte came in 2004, when the Bluejays lost both games of the championship series to finish fourth
With the cancellation of this year’s third-place game, West Platte and Norwood flipped a coin to see which school would take home the trophy and medals. West Platte lost and will receive its hardware at a later date.
“I went 0-for-2,” West Platte coach Tanner Lawson said. “I lost the flip (to determine home team). Then I gave him the shot for the team to take the trophy and medals home. I lost that one, too. I called heads and then he called heads and won. I think the coin was messed up.”
West Platte finished 19-6 with five seniors among the regular starters.
McKaulley Stephenson and Luke Horsemen — the Bluejays top two pitchers — will return for a fourth try at a state title next year along with catcher Peyton Morris, right fielder Brett Shepherdson and designated hitter Mitch Moppin. West Platte has advanced to the playoffs five of the past six seasons with each of the past three playoff trips ending in disappointing fashion.
Hartville overcame a deficit entering the bottom of the seventh to win 4-3 in the 2013 title game. Archie knocked the Bluejays out in the quarterfinals last year. Valle steamrolled the Bluejays in this year’s semifinal, and the rain took away a chance to secure their 20th win of the season.
“It gives us a lot of motivation for next year,” Horseman said. “(Valle) was a really good team. I feel like we had a good chance to win today, but unfortunately, the weather was bad and we couldn’t play.”
Horseman scored West Platte’s lone run in the 11-1 loss to the Warriors, turning a leadoff walk into an unearned run in the top of the third. The Bluejays were within 2-1 at that point, but Valle added three more in the bottom of the frame, two in the fourth and four in the sixth for a walkoff run-rule victory. Bergtholdt struck out 14 while allowing only one hit and two walks in a complete game shutout.
“It definitely boosted our confidence,” said Horseman, who walked twice. “It helped a lot. It was good when we got it. It made it 2-1. We felt like we had a chance and it kind of slipped away from us.”
Ben Heili recorded the only hit for West Platte, a single to lead off the top of the sixth. He was then caught stealing, and Valle batted around in the bottom of the seventh to plate the winning runs. Five straight batters reached against Stephenson with one out, including three straight run-scoring extra-base hits.
Stephenson ended up allowing eight earned runs on 13 hits and two walks. He entered having allowed only two earned runs all season. Lambrecht came on in relief with two outs and the bases loaded and hit the only batter he faced to force in the winning run. That turned out to be the last pitch in the high school careers for Tanner Lintner, Cody Guthrie, Seth Eagen, Heili and Lambrecht.
“You want to come down and win a state championship,” Guthrie said. “You want to come win both of them. Even if you come down and lose both of them, you still have a lot to be proud of. There’s kids out there that never get to experience this. Even getting third place by default, we still have a lot to say, ‘We did so much this season.’ We need to smile.”