Maddie Carter dove toward home plate with her glove extended, and Platte County’s freshman left fielder came up with the ball.
However, the umpire near the play ruled the ball hit the ground first, allowing Smithville to score the winning run in a 2-1 victory with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning Saturday, Oct. 7 at Platte County High School. For the third straight year, Platte County came up just short in a Class 3 District 15 championship game against the Warriors, this time enduring a difficult loss with a roster that includes no seniors and loads of potential moving forward.
“What a great experience for this young team,” Platte County coach Rob Davenport said. “This is going to pay dividends in the future. The future’s bright.”
Platte County freshman Emma Koeneke carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning and was two outs away from a complete game victory. She recorded the first out on one pitch before running into trouble.
Following an error, Smithville’s first hit came on a double off the wall in center field that easily scored the tying run. Platte County junior center fielder Taylor Farr hurried the ball in to the infield, and junior second baseman Stephanie Carroll threw out Gracey Long trying to stretch the hit into a triple.
Koeneke then hit the next batter but came back to induce a popout to first base, sending the game to extra innings.
“They got thrown out at (third) and that was a huge play,” Davenport said. “If we didn’t get that out, they might’ve won it an inning earlier.”
The No. 2 seed playing as visitors, Platte County went down in order in the top of the eighth against Smithville junior starting pitcher Karington Kadel, who allowed five hits and one unearned run.
Lauren Johnson led off the bottom of the frame for the Warriors, dumping a ball into left field that glanced off Carter’s glove. A sacrifice bunt moved pinch runner Rylee Ambroson to second, and she took third with two outs.
Malea Langhus — one of just three seniors for Smithville — lofted the next fly ball to left field that Carter appeared to catch, only for the umpire’s ruling to go against her, setting off the Warriors’ celebration at home plate.
“I have no idea. I couldn’t see the ball, so as far as whether she caught it or not, the umpire was right there on it,” Davenport said. “I’m going to trust that was the right call, but (Carter) gave us all she had. Maybe I had her a little too deep.”
Platte County (21-9) dominated the chances in the early part of the game with Koeneke retiring the first six she faced and setting Smithville down in order during five of the first six innings.
Shayla Kohler, a junior, led off Platte County’s second with a single, but she ended up stranded at third with Carter at second after being hit by a pitch and taking second with two outs. Farr led off the second with a single and went to second on a sacrifice bunt but also was left at second base.
Platte County tried to use a small ball approach again in the fifth.
The inning started with Carter hitting a pop up in front of the plate that appeared set to roll foul when Smithville catcher Chloe Williams picked up the ball in fair territory. Koeneke sacrificed Carter to second, but she couldn’t score on freshman shortstop Halle Magee’s line drive single to left field.
Paige Rocha, Platte County’s sophomore leadoff hitter, then tried a squeeze bunt with one out, and the ball died near home plate. Williams fielded and threw in behind Carter, who had went too far down the line and ended up the second out when she couldn’t scramble back to third.
Kadel then struck out Platte County junior Janessa Barmann to leave two more runners on base.
“It became apparent it was going to come down to a run here or there, who made a mistake,” Davenport said. “It forced our hand. Our strength is to hit away, but we worked on taking them out of their game. Karington is a good pitcher, and she took those bats away from us and forced us to go to small ball today.”
Platte County finally broke through in the seventh.
Carroll reached on a bunt to start the inning, and Carter’s sacrifice bunt moved her to second. After Koeneke popped out, Magee singled to left with Davenport not hesitating to send Carroll around third and toward home.
With the throw sailing high over the catcher, Carroll scored easily to give Platte County a 1-0 lead.
“I was going to make them make a play,” Davenport said. “There was no doubt, and when I saw it flying high, I felt better.”
To that point, Smithville’s lone runner came on an error to start the third inning. Koeneke didn’t walk a batter in 7 2/3 innings, but Platte County’s second error led to the tying run that inning.
Koeneke ended up allowing only three hits with two of them driving in runs.
Platte County won 15 of 16 following a 2-3 start to the season and ended up winning a share of the Suburban Conference Blue Division title. The Pirates started four freshmen, including Koeneke and catcher Hayden Humes, four juniors and two sophomores on the way to a third straight district runner-up finish since placing second in Class 3 in 2014.
Platte County 9, Richmond 2
A five-run first inning keyed the blowout in a semifinal Thursday, Oct. 5 at Platte County High School.
Four of Platte County’s nine hits came in the first inning, which started with a leadoff walk on five pitches for Rocha. Barmann then reached on an error, but the Pirates’ onslaught started with one out.
Kohler and Gracie Erickson hit RBI singles, and Carroll blooped a slap hit over a third baseman drawn in to load the bases. After a ground ball led to a forceout at the plate for the second out, Koeneke drove in three with a triple to deep left field to make it 5-0.
“Definitely sparked us, and she was definitely due,” Davenport said. “Good moment for her.”
Koeneke threw a complete game and worked around hits in the second and third.
Platte County led 6-0 after the second thanks to two more Richmond errors, and the Pirates added two more with two outs in the third. Magee singled up the middle to score Carter, who singled with one out.
Rocha then walked and Barmann hit an RBI single to score Magee and make the lead 8-0.
In the bottom of the fourth, Koeneke gave up a two-out, two run double but stranded two in scoring position to keep the advantage at 8-2. She also left the bases loaded in the sixth and worked around a two-out triple in the seventh to finish the win in her first postseason start.
“All the freshmen, for that matter (were confident),” Davenport said. “That last week of the season, we seemed to get tight in a couple of the big games we had, so it was nice to see them nice and relaxed — all of them — tonight.”