DeClue's record home run not enough for Park Hill South softball in district final

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Park Hill South put baserunners on in every inning during a repeat matchup in the Class 4 District 16 championship game. Unlike a year ago, the key hit never came Friday, Oct. 9 at Park Hill High School. Staley, the No. 2 seed, plated three runs in the fifth inning to retake the lead in a 5-1 win against the top-seeded Panthers, who were trying to defend their title from a year ago when they upset the top-seeded Falcons in the title game. Park Hill South finished its season at 25-4 with an unbeaten Suburban Conference Red Division title but were unable to forge a second straight trip to the playoffs after the inaugural run for the program in 2014.

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo Park Hill South senior outfielder Kylie DeClue watches her home run in the third inning of the Class 4 District 16 championship game against Staley on Friday, Oct. 9 at Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Mo.

In the first ever playoff trip, Park Hill South lost to Liberty North in sectional play.

“The good thing is we’re at a place in our program where we’re getting there,” Park Hill South coach Josh Walker said. “We’re getting to face the good teams. We’re not getting put out by a bad team; we’re being put out by a good team.”

Park Hill South star senior Kylie DeClue again provided a big spark.

The returning all-state center fielder blasted a home run down the left field line to tie the game at 1-1 in the third inning after Alana Vawter scored on Jen Harvey’s two-out RBI triple in the second inning to give Staley its initial lead. It ended up being the ninth and final home run of DeClue’s record-setting season, which included 19 extra-base hits.

“It’s probably top three,” DeClue said of the home run that extended her school record for a single season. “I knew it was gone right when I hit it. I was a little worried it would be foul. I had that happen earlier this year when we played Park Hill here. I was a little bit worried, but luckily, it stayed in. Tying the game there definitely helped keep us up in the game, and it helped us stay in the game longer.”

Staley scored three runs in the fifth after an infield hit and two perfect bunts resulted in singles, and Abby Klein cleared the bases with a triple.

DeClue nearly added another home run to her record in the bottom of the fifth, but her line drive hit the fence in right-center field. She remained stuck at second after two lineouts and a fly ball. Vawter scored her second run in the sixth inning to push the Staley advantage to 5-1 following a leadoff walk.

“They were just better than us today,” Walker said. “They put the ball in play. Our bunt defense let us down there in the fifth inning. That was the difference in the game. They got hits with runners on, and we had the bases loaded in the first inning and couldn’t get a hit. It’s that kind of game.”

Park Hill South shortstop Kasey Sadler led off the bottom of the seventh with a single for Park Hill South but she was erased on game-ending double play.

In all, the Panthers produced 10 hits to go with a walk and a hit batter against Staley starter Alle Pattillo but they stranded nine runners — five in scoring position, including leaving the bases loaded in the first when Kate Kobayashi, Sadler and Erika Lutgen all singled. Olivia Kinsey, Park Hill South’s junior ace, went seven innings and struck out nine, but she also allowed nine hits and a walk in addition to hitting a batter.

After falling behind 1-0, Park Hill South nearly answered immediately, but Carolyn Stock was gunned down at the plate trying to score on a Taylor McCoy single to left field. Staley’s Lou Gilbert came up firing and delivered a perfect throw to nab the junior and delay the tying run.

Park Hill South reached the title game after a tidy 10-0 win in a semifinal Thursday, Oct. 8, limiting the Lady Oakies to just two hits in six innings. Kinsey struck out 15 to earn the complete game victory. Five straight batters reached base in the bottom of the sixth for the Panthers, and after Kinsey delivered a two-run single, Meghan Church followed with a single to score Lutgen with the walkoff run. Church hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth to extend the lead to 7-0.

Kobayashi hit a two-run home run in the third and an RBI triple in the fourth.

Park Hill finished its season at 4-24 with a 6-2 loss to St. Joseph Central in the first round of the tournament Wednesday, Oct. 7. The Trojans went 3-7 in Suburban League Red Division play but finished the season on a seven-game losing streak.