LIBERTY, Mo. — Park Hill’s standout senior Liam Henry kicked off the season with a bang — a double to lead off the top of the first inning in the first round of the Liberty Leadoff Tournament on Friday, March 16 at Liberty High School.
Henry later scored the game’s first run after a dropped pop fly led to a two-base error. The big hit set the tone in a 9-5 win against Kearney to open the season and the Trojan career of new head coach Blaine Lewis.
“It feels good,” Lewis said. “We came out firing, we had a little lull in the middle and when I couldn’t get a guy hot enough, fast enough, but Chandler Ashby finished it off and did a great job.”
Henry also got the start on the mound, keeping the Bulldogs off of the board over his three innings of hitless work, striking out four.
In the fourth inning, the Trojans added some much needed insurance, batting around and plating six to push their advantage to 8-0. The first five batters reached base before an out was recorded. Chandler Ashby drew first blood in the inning with a bases-loaded double after Ryan Lack and Joe Daneff singled and Corey Bradford walked to fill the bags. RBIs from Ben Zahnd, Zayne Morrow and two from Tavien Josenberger gave Park Hill a big lead.
“It was great to be able to bat around against a very talented pitching staff,” Lewis said. “The nerve racking part was the tendency towards complacency at the end. To string hits together and continue to put people on base was a good feeling as we continue to progress forward.”
Brett Balusek took over on the mound and loaded the bases on a hit batsman and two walks before giving way Ashby, who allowed just one of the inherited runners to come around to score, on the mound.
Ashby finished the game despite taking a line drive come-backer off of his ankle in the seventh inning to earn the save.
“At first I thought my ankle was broken,” Ashby said. “So I was just happy that I could move it and stand up and everything. After I threw a couple of warmup pitches the pain started to go away after the adrenaline started to kick back in.”
The liner put two runners on and Kearney eventually loaded the bases. After another hit, an error, and three passed balls the bases were empty which allowed Ashby to refocus to finish the game with a strikeout and a groundout back to the mound.
“In a way I think (being hit) helped me refocus,” Ashby said. “I had thrown six balls in a row and walked a couple. I like pitching from the windup with no one on base a lot, lot more than pitching from the stretch with people on base. Having no one on base gave me my confidence back because I knew I would be out of the windup again.”
Liberty North 14, Park Hill 1
The Eagles scored four in the first and followed up with seven more in the second to roll to a victory in the tournament on Saturday, March 17.
Liberty North had only three more hits than the Trojans (1-1) but took advantage of 11 free passes and four errors.
Only three of the first six runs scored by Liberty North came on RBI hits. In the second inning, Doug Wood and Nick Fuller had two-run singles.
The lone for Park Hill came in the fifth inning, down 14-0 at the time.
Ryan Kiser led off with a single and moved up on a passed ball and a fly out. He scored on Blake Morrow’s RBI single.
Liberty North, which finished No. 7 in the final Class 4 poll last year, held Park Hill to four hits.