EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. — Early mistakes created a big hole, and Platte County couldn’t muster a comeback.
In a Class 3 District 15 championship game rematch, Smithville broke to a big lead and held on for an 8-3 victory over the Pirates Saturday, Oct. 8 at Excelsior Springs High School. Platte County won the first matchup between the two teams in this year’s Greater Kansas City Tournament back in August, but the Warriors advanced to the postseason for the second straight year at the Pirates’ expense.
“Basically, we ran into a really good team,” Platte County coach Rob Davenport said. “They have really good pitching and probably have enough pitching to get them all the way to state, and offensively, they put pressure on you all the time. Things didn’t bounce our way in the first inning, dug a big hole.”
This scenario ended up drastically different from last year.
In 2015, Smithville ended the careers of a large group of seniors seeking a second straight playoff berth after Platte County reached the Class 3 title game in 2014. The Pirates were left to rebuild with a roster made up almost entirely of freshmen and sophomores, a task made more difficult after freshman pitcher Gracie Erickson left the Greater KC Tournament with a hand injury that sidelined her for a few weeks.
However, catcher Anna Townsend, shortstop Tori Farr and first and second baseman Lauren Magee — Platte County’s only three seniors — turned into a reliable middle of the order hitting behind freshman third baseman Paige Rocha and Erickson. The formula led to a solid Suburban Conference Blue Division season and hopes of a playoff return.
“I thought we had an outstanding year,” Davenport said. “We had 24 of our 27 kids were freshmen or sophomores so we were young and rebuilding and proud of what they did this year and where they got to. I think getting to a district championship game really was a huge deal for this team and the youth that we have.”
In the aftermath of the loss to Smithville, the focus was on the disappointment for the three seniors, including 2014 title game starters Farr and Magee.
Farr became a standout shortstop the past two seasons, while Townsend went from part-time starter at the start of her junior season to a key piece of the offense and defense in short order. Not surprisingly, the talented top of the lineup factored in a brief comeback attempt for the Pirates against Warriors starter Lexie Duncan.
Down 7-0, Platte County closed within 7-3 in the top of the sixth.
Farr drove in Rocha with a single, and Townsend and Magee followed with RBI singles. Duncan came back to end the inning and then added an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth before finishing out the victory.
Smithville provided the support early with four runs in the first.
A pair of errors and a two-run double for Lauren Bays provided the initial lead, and Duncan hit a two-run, two-out home run to right center field off of Erickson in the second. Erickson allowed nine hits, while the official book charged the Pirates’ defense with seven errors.
Platte County ended up 15-12 on the season, one season after going 16-12. Now, the Pirates say goodbye to the final pieces left from the 2014 state runner-up but hopeful Rocha, Erickson, sophomore first baseman Shayla Kohler and sophomore outfielders Janessa Barmann, Taylor Farr and Stephanie Carroll can be the foundation for future success.
Platte County 7, Richmond 3
After allowing an early run, the Pirates struck right back on Rocha’s leadoff solo home run and then pulled away to a semifinal win Friday, Oct. 7 — a game pushed back a day due to inclement weather.
Platte County only trailed for one batter and took the lead for good in a wild three-run fourth inning. Richmond went up 1-0 after Abby Vandiver led off with a single against Erickson, moved to second on a sacrifice and scored on Ashley Wilton’s two-out double.
In the bottom of the first, Rocha led off with a towering fly ball to right field that slowly drifted over the fence for her third home run of the season.
“I kind of thought it was a foul ball and a popup,” Rocha said. “I was kind of sprinting to second and then I saw it went out when I rounded second.”
Platte County failed to take advantage of Magee’s leadoff double in the second and Rocha’s leadoff walk in the third. In between, Erickson worked out of trouble in the top of the third with help from Farr on the first of her two stellar defensive plays.
Farr gunned out a runner trying to score from third for the second out on a play that left Townsend with a rip in her pants from the sliding player’s cleat — an inconvenience that required tape and a delay.
Platte County broke through again in the fourth with an error, hit by pitch and walk. Rocha then walked on the ninth straight ball from Richmond starter Karen Jaggers to put the Pirates up 2-1, and Erickson then dropped an infield single into no-man’s land behind the mound to allow two more to score.
Richmond struck back for one in the fifth on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice that saw Farr force out a runner with a flip from shortstop to Rocha at third. The Spartans’ coaches argued but to no avail, and Erickson avoided further damage.
“It kind of caught me off guard,” Rocha said. “I thought she might’ve been safe, but we got it. She was out.”
Richmond ended up with nine hits to Platte County’s five but were not as opportunistic as the Pirates, who received two more in the fifth on Kohler’s two-run bloop single to right.