KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A day after being shutout, Platte County didn’t come up with the big hit or big inning to break a slump. Instead, the Pirates strung together hits and moved baserunners in a balanced offensive performance to beat Park Hill 6-0 in the fifth-place game of the Northland Tournament.
Platte County has been ruthlessly efficient this season, improving to 12-2 a day after failing to score a run for the first time this season in a 1-0 loss to end pool play against Liberty North. The Pirates have used big hits — most notably hitting three home runs in the bottom of the seventh to beat Smithville on a walkoff in their Northland pool opener — and a deep lineup to equal effectiveness.
“I think our team, if we start out hot, the whole team picks up on that,” said Platte County senior all-state catcher Justin Mitchell, who went 3-for-3 with three runs scored against the Trojans. “When we have it, we have it a lot. We have a tremendous amount of talent and a lot of confidence that comes with it.”
In the matchup of two teams who just missed the four semifinal spots, Platte County pitchers Ethan Esdohr, Max Hunter and Dalton Reichers combined on a three-hit shutout.
The top of the Pirates’ lineup did most of the damage, providing consistent run support. They put up two in the first, three in the third and one more in the fifth in big part thanks to timely extra-base hits and walks from three Park Hill pitchers.
In the first, an error, hit by pitch and walk to Drew Parmeley loaded the bases for Platte County, and Ryan Frazier — hitting second and playing left field with senior Colton Horn out indefinitely with a shoulder injury — scored on a wild pitch. After being hit by a pitch, Mitchell came home on Austin Gammill’s sacrifice fly to center.
Frazier singled and scored on Parmeley’s groundout in the third. Mitchell, who doubled ahead of Parmeley, came home on Gammill’s single to left field, and he scored on senior Dillon Doll’s two-out double to right-center.
Platte County’s final run came after Mitchell doubled to lead off the fifth and scored on Gammill’s groundout. Gammill went 1-for-2 with a walk and three RBIs.
The hitting of Parmeley in the cleanup spot and Gammill behind him have made Mitchell’s job easier. A prospect for this year’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, Mitchell upped his average back to .500 and put his on-base percentage at .638 after his perfect day at the plate.
“It’s making it hard for teams to intentionally walk me right now with what they’re doing right after me,” Mitchell said.
Park Hill managed little offense but did use walks to provide scoring opportunities.
Liam Henry, the Trojans’ star junior center fielder, doubled with two outs in the first and stole third, but Esdohr struck out Grant Mertz to end the threat. Esdohr ended up going four innings, leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth after two walks and a single.
A sophomore right-hander, Esdohr continued to show his skills on the mound, part of a deep group of contributing pitchers with Davenport attempting to limit pitch counts in the face of new rules governing pitch counts.
“Quite frankly, our pitching is our strength,” Davenport said. “Even when you get to this place in our order, I feel like we’re better than other teams in the middle to the bottom of our rotation. Every body’s going to have a good 1 or 2, and we can compete with those, too.
“But where we’re really strong is in the middle of our pitching staff.”
Hunter worked two innings, working around a walk in both, and Reichers struck out two after allowing a leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh.
Esdohr had the only other four strikeouts for Platte County pitching. However, Frazier in left field and Esdohr in right field after being shifted off the mound provided highlight sliding catches to help the staff out in the win over Park Hill.
The game even ended with shortstop Jared Wilson making a nifty flip to Doll at second base for a game-ending forceout on a grounder off the bat of Park Hill senior shortstop Tyler Watson.
“I think (the defense) makes it less stressful as a coach when you have a defense behind them,” Davenport said.
Horn came up with an injured right shoulder sliding into third base late in the pool opener against Smithville. With him out of the lineup, Frazier, Esdohr and senior Blake Conner have seen more time in the outfield, but the lower end of the pitching staff will also see increased work with the loss of the Pirates’ preferred No. 2 behind Wilson, the senior ace.
Davenport has used 11 different pitchers this season with six already in double-digit innings — Wilson, Horn, Esdohr, Conner, sophomore Glen Gammill and senior Grant Carver (team-high 20.1 despite no starts).
“It gets them some good experience,” Davenport said. “I think that’s the whole idea, getting to the end of the year knowing that if you need to call on a kid, he’s had the innings; he’s had the experience.
“And you know what? They’re capable.”
After winning eight straight, Park Hill lost two in a row in Suburban Conference Gold Division play and then split four games in the Northland Tournament.
The Trojans continue to work on finding starters behind Henry — the left-handed ace when not in center field — and Connor Morehouse. No. 3 starter Cody Hall is currently out with a concussion after taking a line drive to the head in a loss to Raymore-Peculiar earlier in the month.
“We went in thinking we had a lot of guys who could throw the ball, but we didn’t know who our pitchers were,” Park Hill coach Greg Reynolds said. “We’ve found some, and we’ve got a few guys we need to get a little better.”
Platte County and Park Hill are scheduled to play a doubleheader Saturday, May 6 at Platte County High School.
Liberty North 1, Platte County 0
The Pirates managed only two hits and yielded the only run in the top of the fifth Wednesday, April 19 at Platte County High School. The loss kept them out of the tournament semifinals.
Liberty North used two two-out singles and an error to plate an unearned run against Conner in relief. The Eagles had 10 hits total and struck out just four times.
Platte County only managed two singles and one walk in seven innings against Carl Occhipinto, and the Pirates stranded two runners. Frazier had a single and the walk.
Platte County 5, Park Hill South 1
The Pirates rallied for the second time in two pool play games Tuesday, April 18.
A walk and three straight singles in the top of the fifth at Park Hill South High School in Riverside, Mo. scored three runs to give Platte County the lead. Wilson walked, and Mitchell, Parmeley and Austin Gammill all singled in succession.
Austin Gammill drove in two, giving him the game-winning RBIs for a second straight day after he hit a walkoff two-run home run in the Pirates’ Northland opener against Smithville the day before.
Platte County added two more in the seventh after Kobe Cummings tripled to lead off the inning. He scored on a wild pitch, and after Mitchell drew a one-out walk, he scored on Austin Gammill’s two-out double.
Glen Gammill started and threw three innings, allowing only one run after giving up a triple to Malik Stevenson in the first. Conner (one inning), Esdohr (2 2/3 innings) and Reichers (1/3 of an inning) all went scoreless in relief.
Liberty 7, Park Hill 3
Costly errors kept the Trojans out of the tournament’s semifinals.
In first place after two pool play games, Park Hill committed three errors and allowed four unearned runs in a loss Wednesday, April 19 at Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Mo. The Trojans led 1-0 after the top of the first when Joseph Daneff scored on a wild pitch.
Liberty took the lead with two unearned in the bottom of the second, and Park Hill tied it on Trevor Guzzo’s sacrifice fly in the top of the third. The Bluejays went ahead for good with two in the third, one unearned, and then added three in the sixth right after their advantage had been trimmed to 4-3.
Guzzo scored Park Hill’s final run in the top of the sixth. After singling, he moved to third on an error and scored on Zayne Morrow’s single to center. With the tying run on base, Liberty got out of the inning with a double play.
Park Hill 13, North Kansas City 2, 5 innings
The Trojans took the lead in the standings after the second round of pool play games Tuesday, April 18.
Despite collecting just six hits, Park Hill scored seven in the first and five in the third on the way to a run-rule victory in North Kansas City, Mo. Tyler Watson led off the first with a triple and scored the first run, and Guzzo and Austin Brooks recorded RBIs in the seven-run frame.
Bryce Balusek walked in a run in the third, and Guzzo followed with a two-run double. Brooks then hit a two run single.
Morrow started for Park Hill and struck out eight in five innings.