ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Hoping to spring an upset, Park Hill South ended up self-inflicting too much damage.
The Panthers advanced to the Class 5 District 16 championship, but a pair of critical errors led to big rallies for No. 1 Staley on Friday, May 20 at Griffon Spring Sports Complex. The Falcons turned the big innings into an 8-1 victory to go back to the playoffs in hopes of defending last year’s state championship.
Park Hill South finished at 18-12 after winning a share of the Suburban Conference Red Division championship in what started as a potential rebuilding season.
“They accomplished a whole heck of a lot,” Park Hill South coach Josh Walker said. “I’m proud of them, really proud of the guys. They did a great job.”
Staley took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second with only one hit then expanded its advantage to 6-1 in the fourth. The four-run rally started with a two-out walk and continued after Park Hill South shortstop Ryan Hagen made his second error.
Jake Evans started and ended up charged with all eight runs but only three were earned. He left after 5 2/3 innings when Staley’s Ross Messina chased him with a two-run double to left-center field that plated the Falcons final two runs.
“The first two runs they got started with a walk and an error,” Walker said. “Then with two outs in the fourth inning, we give a walk and an error. You can’t give this team extra outs.
“Jake Evans pitched a heck of a game. I know the scoreline isn’t going to show how great he did for us out there.”
Park Hill South finished with five hits, but they were spaced across five different innings. The Panthers stranded a runner in scoring position in the top of the first and third, unable to put enough pressure on the district’s top seed.
After falling behind 2-0, Park Hill South immediately grabbed a run back in the top of the third and narrowly missed a bigger inning.
Brett Palmer walked with one out and went to second on a wild pitch. Staley centerfielder Jack Duffy, who went 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run scored, then initially saved a run, robbing Jake Kline of a hit with a diving catch for the second out.
Palmer then scored on a throwing error when designated hitter Malik Stevenson reached on an infield hit. Staley second baseman Johnny Raybourn threw wildly trying to record the out, and Palmer came home while Stevenson went to second.
Stevenson went to third on a passed ball, and Ryan Callahan walked for Park Hill South. Jacob Thigpen stranded two after tapping back to the pitcher for the third out.
Duffy saved potentially more runs in the sixth, running down Hagen’s line shot toward the gap in left-center with Thigpen on first after a one-out single.
“That diving catch he made was ridiculous,” Walker said.
Park Hill South played without left fielder Andrew Aswegan, who broke his wrist sliding into second during a semifinal win against Platte County the night before.
Park Hill South 7, Platte County 0
The second-seeded Pirates’ season came to an end with a shutout loss Thursday, May 19.
After winning the Blue Division crown, Platte County sent Colton Horn to the mound for the semifinal matchup, a third meeting with Park Hill South this season. The two teams split the first two matchups, and Thigpen — the Panthers’ ace — delivered a win in the rubber match, allowing just three hits and two walks in the shutout.
Park Hill South scored three off Horn in the first inning with Kline and Stevenson starting out with a double and a single. Thigpen scored two with a single, and the Panthers batted seven.
Horn lasted two innings before junior Jared Wilson came on in relief. Platte County hoped to save the ace for a potential matchup with Staley, but the 3-0 deficit led coach Rob Davenport to make the switch.
An error helped two runs score in the fifth without a hit, and Park Hill South added two more in the seventh on an RBI single for Ryan Callahan and a double for Thigpen.
Platte County advanced a runner into scoring position in the sixth on Justin Mitchell’s double and in the seventh after Horn led off with a walk. The Pirates ended up stranding four with Mitchell thrown out on the base paths in the sixth.
For the second straight year, Platte County didn’t win a district game, but the Pirates finished 18-8 overall with just two seniors on the roster — right fielder Jerod Thomas and shortstop Kodee Martin.
Park Hill South 2, Oak Park 1, 11 innings
The Panthers stranded 10 runners but did just enough to advance out of the first round Tuesday, May 17 at Missouri Western.
An unearned run put Park Hill South behind early, but the Panthers tied the score in the sixth and scored the winning run on Kline’s walkoff single in the bottom of the 11th of a marathon game. Oak Park managed just six hits off of Park Hill South starter Hagen (eight innings) and Evans (three innings).
The Northmen struck out six times in extra innings but did leave the potential go-ahead runner stranded at third in the top of the 11th.
Evans retired the first six batters he faced before Logan Allenbaugh led off the 11th with a double. Park Hill South cut him down trying to go to third on a ground ball, but Dylan Lloyd reached on the play and moved to third on an error and passed ball.
The next two batters struck out to end the threat.
In the 11th, Colin Farrow reached with a one out single and stole second. He moved to third but didn’t score on Brandon Rice’s single. Oak Park’s Will Simpson, who threw the final 3 1/3 innings, intentionally walked the No. 9 batter to bring up Kline.
On the first pitch he saw, Kline singled to right field to bring home Farrow with the winning run.
Park Hill South wasted Hagen’s one-out double in the second inning, leaving him at third. Oak Park took the lead in the next half inning with a pair of singles and a two-base error putting a runner at third. An RBI groundout put the Northmen up 1-0.
Lloyd, who started and threw seven innings, mostly avoided trouble until the sixth.
Stevenson led off with a single, went to second on Ryan Callahan’s bunt and scored on Aswegan’s two-out double. The Panthers then left the bases loaded in the seventh, had a runner cut down at the plate in the eighth and stranded a runner in scoring position in the ninth and tenth before coming up with the winning rally.
St. Joseph Central 4, Park Hill 3
The Trojans were eliminated from districts in the first round, unable to complete a late comeback Tuesday, May 17.
In the regular season, Park Hill swept the Indians, including an 11-3 win just five days prior to the postseason matchup. Trojans starter Aaron Ashby gave up three runs in the first inning, and Central led 4-0 after the top of the fourth.
Park Hill (13-15) scored one run in three of the final four innings to slowly close the gap.
Back-to-back singles by Tyler Watson and Liam Henry — an Arkansas commit — set up Trever Guzzo’s RBI ground out in the fourth. Watson added a two-out RBI single in the fifth to plate the second Trojans’ run, but with two on, Henry grounded out to first base to leave Park Hill still down 4-2.
Park Hill scored one against reliever Dawson Smith in the bottom of the seventh. An error and a walk set up Watson’s second RBI. Henry came to bat with the tying run at third base with two outs, but Smith induced a fly ball to avoid the potential of extra innings or a late loss.
Central starter Noah Cameron struck out eight in the win.