Justin Mitchell committed to the cause early and delivered the biggest hit so far in a campaign to help a 4-year-old battling cancer.
During the Pirates’ #PlayForLandon game Thursday, April 28, Platte County’s star junior wanted a win. With Landon Jaros serving as an inspirational honorary captain, Mitchell provided a towering home run in the third inning that broke a scoreless tie with visiting Pembroke Hill at Platte County High School.
In the end, the two-run shot ended up providing Platte County’s only runs in what ended up a tense 2-1 victory. A pair of late defensive plays involving the catcher helped squelch the Raiders’ comeback, allowing for a joyous celebration afterward when Landon Jaros — fresh off his most recent surgery while battling leukemia — arrived at the field with his father and assistant coach Todd Jaros.
“That was for Landon,” Mitchell said. “Everything today was for Landon; nothing was about us today. Everything today was about Landon, and we wanted to get a win for him.”
In what turned into an emotional day, Pembroke Hill ended up with more hits but couldn’t come up with enough to solve Platte County starter Colton Horn.
Pirates third baseman Max Hunter provided the initial breakthrough, hitting a rope that skipped past diving Pembroke Hill right fielder Danny Duffy. Hunter lumbered into third base with a two-out triple, bringing up Mitchell.
Not a typical leadoff hitter, Mitchell blasted a pitch from Garrett Presko over the Platte Valley Bank sign in the deepest part of center field, doing plenty to make Hunter’s hustle to take an extra base unnecessary.
“I’m just trying to do my job and get on base so he can hit me in, do his job,” Hunter said.
Platte County’s other three hits were all Jerod Thomas singles, and Presko, who pitched all six innings, walked just one.
Horn scattered a pair of early singles and didn’t end up in trouble until the top of the sixth inning. He hit Presko with a pitch to load the bases with one out, and Jason Cobb followed with the third well-placed single of the frame to cut the Pirates’ lead to 2-1.
Marcus Smith followed with a hard hit grounder to Hunter at third. He fielded and stepped on third before making an unorthodox throw home to Mitchell, who needed to collect the on-target throw and apply the tag to John Block to complete the inning-ending double play.
The throw somewhat surprised Mitchell, who jokingly called the decision to come home “a sophomore move” that would teach Hunter a lesson.
“I knew the kid that hit it was pretty quick,” Hunter said, “so I stepped on the bag and saw the guy was halfway (home) so I just made the throw, and Justin did a great job behind there. The normal thought is just (third and then first) there but I looked up and thought it’d be easier to go home.”
Grant Carver earned the save for Platte County, coming on in relief for the seventh inning. He allowed a two-out single to right field, but with pinch-hitter Evan Hesse at the plate, Mitchell took a pitch and threw down to first base behind the runner to end the game with a pickoff.
Shortly after the final out, Todd and Landon Jaros arrived at the field — dad pushing his son in a wheelchair out onto the wet, muddy field.
Horn, a senior, then presented Landon with the Pirates’ plaque from their recent Northland Invitational championship, along with a wooden bat the entire team signed. Platte County’s Future Business Leaders of America added a gift of toys and games purchased for him.
Finally, Hilary Mathurin brought out a banner members of the high school signed along with inspirational messages for Landon, who found out about his diagnosis in April.
Mitchell’s home run and Hunter’s quick thinking on defense provided Platte County with a win, but the ceremony after the game ended up the lasting impression for a season-best crowd on hand to watch the Pirates.
“(The home run) felt good, but it was for Landon so whatever. He’s more important,” Mitchell said.
Platte County 5, Kearney 3
The Pirates winning streak continued to roll on its way to a six with a key Suburban Conference Blue Division victory Friday, April 29 in Kearney, Mo.
Mitchell went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. His two-run double in the fourth put Platte County ahead 4-2 and helped overcome a two-run deficit. Pirates starter Jared Wilson gave up a two-run home run to Robbie Collier in the bottom of the first, but the right-hander ended up with a complete game, striking out five.
Kearney’s final run in the seventh was unearned.
Platte County answered with a single run in the second, and Mitchell’s triple in the third set him up to score the tying run. Doll and Drew Parmeley also had doubles for the Pirates.
Platte County 7, Raytown South 2
Mitchell stayed hot with three more hits in a Blue Division win Monday, April 2 in Raytown, Mo.
After a single in the first, Mitchell scored the opening run, and Platte County led 2-0 after the first inning. Glen Gammill, a freshman, helped out a tiring pitching staff by going five innings and allowing no earned runs. He walked two and struck out one.
Raytown South did score one off of Gammill in the bottom of the first, but Platte County scored in five of the first six innings to slowly stretch out the lead to 7-1. Nick Rhude worked the final two innings for the Pirates, allowing two hits, a walk and one run.
Mitchell, Horn and Carter Nugent all had doubles. Mitchell scored all three times on base, while Horn and Kodee Martin drove in two apiece.
Platte County’s slate stays busy with a scheduled Tuesday, May 3 game at Belton (result not available at The Citizen’s deadline), then conference games vs. Grandview on Wednesday, May 4 and vs. Kearney on Thursday, May 5.