RIVERSIDE, Mo. — Park Hill South ended up just one out away from another trip to the district title game when disaster struck.
St. Joseph Central freshman Madison Cowman — the No. 8 hitter in the Indians’ lineup — launched a three-run home run to left field in the top of the seventh inning Friday, Oct. 7 at Park Hill South High School. The big it capped a four-run comeback inning in a 6-4 victory in a Class 4 District 16 semifinal between Suburban Conference Red Division foes.
In a difficult season, Park Hill South’s youth came close to sending the Panthers to a fourth straight district title game in search of the second playoff appearance in program history. Instead, they finished at 13-13 with an emotional ending for the careers of three seniors.
“The girls gave it everything they had.” Park Hill South coach Josh Walker said. “St. Joe Central just got the hits that we didn’t get, and honestly it could have been a lot worse because they left the bases loaded a few times and we were able to get out of some situations.
“But at the end, they got us.”
Park Hill South dealt with the season-ending injury to star right-handed pitcher Olivia Kinsey (strained bicep), an all-state selection in 2015 headed to the University of Oregon.
The setback early in the season gave way to more opportunities to a roster loaded with freshmen and sophomores. Gracie Dieleman, a sophomore, became the top pitching option, and she worked around a lot of baserunners, leaving the bases loaded in the first, fifth and sixth while limiting Central to single runs in the first and sixth.
The Indians ended up with 14 hits and six walks, beating Park Hill South for the second time this season.
Park Hill South took the lead at 2-1 with three straight two-out hits in the fourth. Meggen Keller and Carolyn Stock hit back-to-back doubles, and Stock — one of the seniors — scored on Taylor Johnson’s RBI single to right field.
The Panthers added a run in the sixth when sophomore Emma Beuerlein led off with a double and scored on leadoff hitter Kate Kobayashi’s double four pitches later.
Central, which had four hits in the first inning before Dieleman retired 11 straight, took advantage of three straight hits in the top of the sixth to get a run back and close within 3-2. The Indians were down to their last three outs when pitcher Presley Miller led off the seventh with a double, scoring on a one-out single that also saw the lead runner thrown out trying to advance to second.
With two outs and a runner on first, Dieleman allowed a single and then Cowman’s home run. Jessie Hagen, a freshman, came on to record the final out with Central up 6-3.
In the bottom of the seventh, Beuerlein led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice and scored on Sam Ahrendt’s double. Jessie Hagen added a single, bringing the potential tying run to the plate twice. Georgia Clark and Keller popped out to end the season.
Central went on to lose to defending state champion Staley in Saturday’s district final. Park Hill South now regroups with basically eight starters returning after playing the majority of the season without Kinsey.
“We’ve got some pieces to build on.” Walker said. “We have some good, young girls that took some very good swings today and they got a taste of what district softball is like so hopefully we’ll let that carry us on and get better for next year.”
Oak Park 9, Park Hill 6
The Trojans held a 4-1 lead late and were close to an important win for a struggling program Wednesday, Oct. 5 at Park Hill South High School in Riverside, Mo.
Oak Park ended up with 11 hits and six walks total, scoring eight in the bottom of the fifth to take the win. Park Hill scored on Brooke Boullion’s leadoff double and two groundouts in the sixth and again on Boullion’s RBI single in the seventh to close within three. The Trojans brought the potential tying run to the plate, but Josie Heckman grounded out to end the game.
Park Hill took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on a pair of errors, and Oak Park immediately answered with a run against Trojans starter Peyton Morehouse, who hit a three-run home in the top of the fifth to make it 4-1. Kirsten Waldon singled and MJ LaMunyon walked ahead of Morehouse’s one-out home run.