RIVERSIDE, Mo. — It would’ve been pretty easy to ‘sharpie’ Staley into the finals of the Class 5 District 16 tournament.
The Falcons were the No. 2-ranked team in the state in the latest Missouri Baseball Coaches Association poll and were riding a 28-game winning streak.
None of that mattered Monday afternoon when Park Hill South pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent memory by posting a 6-4 victory in the semifinals of the district tournament at Park Hill South High School.
“This was crazy,” said Park Hill South pitcher Collin Brougham, who picked up his sixth win of the season. “We feel like we showed the state. We couldn’t think of a better time. We couldn’t have done it without our fans. They packed the stands and were loud all day.”
The win was the second straight for the Panthers against foes that beat them in the Northland Invitational earlier this season. Staley slipped through with an 8-7 win on April 17 and two days later, the Panthers lost 6-5 in 8 innings against Platte County — which lost to Park Hill South in the opening game of districts.
The Panthers jumped out to a 6-0 lead against the Falcons — which entered with a 31-1 mark compared to Park Hill South’s 15-16 — and held on for dear life over the last two innings as Staley rallied.
“We are playing good ball right now and that is what counts,” Park Hill South coach Josh Walker said following his team’s upset over the Falcons, who beat the Panthers in the district title game in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Brougham threw five innings of one-run ball and then two relievers closed out the Falcons, who hadn’t lost to a Missouri team this year.
The Crowder College signee gave up two hits, struck out seven and walked five and didn’t run into trouble until the fifth. By then, his teammates gave him a 6-0 lead.
In the third inning, the Panthers broke a scoreless tie when freshman Dylan Hufft hit a two-run double, scoring Malik Stevenson and Alex Rodriguez.
Staley committed three errors in the fifth, which led to a four-run frame for Park Hill South. Three straight RBI singles — by Kriss Davis, Hufft and Sam Beuerlein — each brought in a run while an error on the Falcons accounted for the fourth run.
“We hit the ball pretty well,” Walker said. “Against a team like that, you the put the ball in play and make them field it. We had a good plan, all the coaches and assistant coaches had a good offensive plan in place and we did well.”
The Falcons got on the board against Brougham in the bottom of the fifth — they were the home team based on being a higher seed. Four of his five walks came in the frame, the last to Rodrick Criss brought home a run. Incidentally, Criss will be a teammate with Brougham in the fall.
On his 93rd and final pitch, Brougham got a fly ball to escape a bases loaded jam to keep the score at 6-1.
“He went out and gave us everything he had,” Walker said. “He is one of the best we have had.”
Brougham went out to the mound to start the sixth, but Walker pulled him before he threw a pitch, which led to a large ovation from crowd, which included the Park Hill South girlssoccer team that headed over after practice.
Ethan Farrow came in to pitch and got a quick out before the next three batters reached. Mason Majors had a two-run double and with two outs, Jackson Diernfeldt hit an RBI single. He moved to third on Criss’ single, but a fly ball ended the scoring threat.
Farrow, a left-handed hurler, opened the bottom of the seventh and got a quick ground ball out, but Jake Wilson reached on an error.
Walker emerged from the dugout and took Rodriguez from shortstop to the mound and Hufft went into the game at short.
“We were going to go with Collin as long as we could because he was our hardest thrower and then we were going to go with one our slowest throwers,” Walker said of bringing in Farrow. “We said if they brought the tying run to the plate, we will make a move and it worked out for us.”
Rodriguez got a line drive out, but then gave up a bloop single to Quinten Arello, which put runners on the corners. On a 1-1 count to pinch hitter Frank Circello, Rodriguez got a fly ball to left fielder Xavier Hammond, who made the catch near the warning track.
“This is the greatest feeling I ever had,” Rodriguez said of picking up the save. “I knew he was a power hitter; I had faced him before. I went with curve ball, curve ball, curve ball and hung it a little bit and he popped it up.”
The Panthers will play St. Joseph Central in the district title game, starting at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 16, weather permitting.
The first two meetings each went eight innings between the Suburban Conference Red Division foes. On May 4, the Panthers won 15-10 in eight innings, while the Indians won the first game, 5-0, in eight innings on April 9.
Park Hill South 5
Platte County 1
A trio of insurance runs in the final inning helped the Panthers pull away for an opening round victory against the Pirates on Saturday, May 12, at home in Riverside, Mo.
Park Hill South jumped up to a 2-0 lead against Platte County and pulled away late to pick up a win again and extract a bit of revenge from a loss in the Northland Invitational earlier this season.
Platte County had a chance to get on the board first but came up short in the bottom of the third inning.
An error got a runner on base but Kriss Davis threw out a second base stealer of the contest. With two outs, Kobe Cummings and Trent Rueckert drew walks. Park Hill South brought in Dominic Scudiero and he walked Colby Sneed to load the bases, but a fly ball ended the inning.
The top of the next inning, the Panthers got on the board first.
Malik Stevenson drew a walk and scored on Alex Rodriguez’s double.
Sam Beurelein doubled in the fifth and scored on Davis’ RBI single to make it to 2-0.
The Pirates cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the fifth.
Christian Grissell had a leadoff single and moved up when Grant Allen drew a walk. Cummings drew a second walk to load the bases.
With the bases loaded, Sneed was hit by a pitch to force in a run. A double play ended the frame and kept Park Hill South in the lead.
Dylan Hufft and Beuerlein had back-to-back singles in the seventh and Xavier Hammond reached on an error on his bunt, which allowed both of his teammates to score.
Collin Brougham followed with another bunt and another error followed, which allowed Hammond to score.
The Pirates were retired in order in the seventh by Brougham, who threw three innings of relief.
Davis and Beuerlien had two hits each for the Panthers, who had six hits. The only hit for the Pirates was Grissell’s single.
The win went to Scudiero, who threw 1 1/3 innings of relief and Brougham got the save, fanning five.
Oak Park 5, Park Hill 4
The Northmen scored a run in the top of the seventh to break a tie and ultimately pick up a victory in second game play at Park Hill South High School on Saturday, May 12, in the opening round of district play.
Oak Park got a one-out RBI single in the top of the seventh to break the tie and the Trojans were retired in order in the bottom of the seventh to seal the loss.
The only other inning Oak Park scored was in the second, where they took a 4-0 lead.
Park Hill battled back to tie the contest.
Ryan Lack hit an RBI triple in the second inning for Park Hill. He reached on an error in the fifth and later scored on a balk.
The Trojans tied the game in the bottom of the sixth. Liam Henry scored on a dropped third strike and Riley Putnam had a game-tying RBI.
Lack and Putnam each had two hits.