LIBERTY, Mo. — Given a second chance, Platte County didn’t miss this time around.
The Pirates battered Liberty North senior Carl Occhipinto for five innings on the way to a 9-1 victory in a Class 5 sectional matchup Tuesday, May 23 at Liberty North High School. Their winning streak hit 13 straight dating back to a loss to Occhipinto and the Eagles in a Northland Tournament pool play matchup back on April 20.
Playing in cold weather with a stiff breeze blowing in, Platte County (24-2) turned in its worst offensive performance of the season in the previous matchup, collecting just one hit in a 1-0 loss.
“We saw a lot of him last game,” said Platte County senior designated hitter Drew Parmeley, who hit a fifth-inning solo home run for the last of six runs scored off of Occhipinto in the rematch. “We’ve been really hot at the plate lately, so that definitely helped us. We were ready to get it back against him. We knew what we could do against him in the first game and just didn’t get it done.
“We got it done against him today.”
Platte County needed just three batters to equal its hit total from the previous matchup, and one batter later, Parmeley drove in a run to give the Pirates the lead for good.
Justin Mitchell, Platte County’s senior all-state catcher, blasted a double to deep centerfield on an 0-2 count with two outs in the first inning. Parmeley followed with a ground ball hit to third baseman Donnie Hanway, who threw wildly low allowing Mitchell to score.
Platte County sophomore Ethan Esdohr roped a double to left field to start the second, and he scored on senior starting pitcher Jared Wilson’s two-out single to make it 2-0.
Esdohr came back to strike the biggest blow in the next inning. Mitchell, who went 1-for-2 with three runs scored, opened a three-run inning with a one-out walk, and after a walk to Parmeley, Pirates senior first baseman Austin Gammill scored a run with a solid single to center field. Esdohr followed with a hard-hit ball to right field.
Liberty North’s Logan Moran misjudged the flight of the ball, and Esdohr ended up with a two-run double.
“I just saw him take a couple steps in, and it just kept carrying and went over his head,” said Esdohr, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs. “They’re going to walk Justin and have Drew up to bat, and we know what Drew can do. Then we have Gammill after that, and we’re pretty much good through the whole lineup.”
The 5-0 lead provided the perfect scenario for Platte County coach Rob Davenport, who continues to limit pitch counts to avoid mandatory off days.
Wilson struck out three and allowed two of his three hits in the bottom of the third inning, leading to the Eagles’ only run. With a 5-1 lead, Davenport hooked Wilson after the third, and senior Grant Carver threw 3 1/3 innings, allowing two walks and one hit.
Parmeley’s third home run of the season — a blast to left field off of Occhipinto — increased the lead to 6-1 in the fifth.
“That makes those (pitching decisions easier),” Davenport said. “We had in our mind that if we needed to we would burn Jared today, but with our offensive production we had today, we didn’t have to do that.”
Carver stranded a runner at second in the fourth and two runners in the fifth before a 1-2-3 sixth allowed him back out for the seventh after Platte County scored three in the top of the inning on three straight two-out RBI singles for Esdohr, senior Dillon Doll and junior Max Hunter. After a leadoff walk to start the seventh, Carver hit his pitch limit on a strikeout, giving way to senior Blake Conner.
Drew Geishart, a pinch hitter, greeted Conner with a single to left field, and Nick Fuller followed with a shot down the right field line. Unsure if the ball would be caught, the lead runner held, and Platte County threw in behind pinch-runner Devin Bowen to record the second out, leaving the Eagles with runners on the corner.
Conner then induced a groundball back to him for the final out, setting off a much more subdued celebration than the one a week earlier in a 10-0 five-inning win over Staley in the Class 5 District 16 title game. Prior to last week, Platte County’s senior class of 13 hadn’t won a single postseason game but has now put three straight together.
“We’re just trying to get to state. That’s been the goal all year,” Parmeley said. “We’re stringing hits together, playing good defense; our pitching’s been doing well. We’re feeling pretty confident right now.”
Back in the playoffs for the first time since 2006, Platte County advances to host a quarterfinal with Lee’s Summit (22-9) at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 25 at Platte County High School. The Pirates will have Wilson, Carver and Conner available to pitch.
A win would put Platte County into the state semifinals for the second time ever and first since winning the Class 3A title in 2002. The win over Liberty North marked the program’s first playoff victory in the state’s largest classification.