KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Park Hill South took the slightest opening and turned one simple mistake into a big inning.
A pair of Park Hill errors led to three runs for the Panthers in the top of the sixth of a 9-2 victory Monday, Oct. 2 at Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Mo. An errant throw with two outs allowed junior Kate Kobayashi to go all the way to third base, and a dropped fly ball led to two more runs with sophomore outfielder Chantice Phillips sprinting home from first base on the play.
Park Hill South’s potent lineup and team speed continued to cause problems for opponents in the regular season finale.
“We’ve been really good about stealing and going and putting pressure on the other team,” Park Hill South coach Josh Walker said. “I think word’s getting around with how fast we are and how much we like to run. We didn’t get to show it a lot today, but we do like to go.”
Park Hill South sophomore first baseman Jessie Hagen came up with the big hits, doubling and scoring in the first and adding a two-run double in the fourth and an RBI single to score Kobayashi in the sixth. The Panthers were patient early against Park Hill starter Kaylyn Jones and then aggressive late with equally successful results.
Hagen singled and Phillips walked with one out in the first, and sophomore Meggen Keller singled home Hagen for the game’s first run and pushed Phillips to third. Phillips then stole home at the back end of an attempted double steal to make it 2-0.
In the fourth, Hagen doubled off the wall to score two with two outs and make it 4-1, coming home on Phillips’ single to make it 5-1.
Park Hill South features a balanced lineup with Kobayashi, Hagen, Phillips, Keller and Sam Ahrendt in the top five spots providing the potency. The Panthers have already set a team record for stolen bases in a season, creating confidence that big innings can start at any time.
“It’s always good to know we have good batters coming up all the time,” said Hagen, who went 3-for-5 with three RBIs and three runs scored. “It all goes so fast.”
The next big inning started with two outs when Jones’ errant throw on a ground ball back to the pitcher went down the first base line. By the time Park Hill junior Peyton Morehouse retrieved it and threw across the infield, Kobayashi was in at third base.
Hagen singled her home to make it 6-2, and Phillips walked again. Park Hill South’s inning appeared to be over on a fly ball to left field. Instead, the error made it 8-2, and the Panthers added one in the seventh on Maddi Buckler’s single and Kobayashi’s RBI double.
Park Hill South junior Gracie Dieleman worked two quick perfect innings and ended up charged with two earned runs in a complete game. Known for pitching to contact, she struck out none but received plenty of defensive and offensive support in a showing typical of the Panthers’ best performances this season.
“We always need to back her up,” Hagen said. “I always know in my head, I need to back Gracie up.”
Park Hill South improved to 18-10 overall, and the Panthers will be the No. 2 seed in the Class 4 District 16 tournament. Last season, they didn’t reach the championship game for the first time since 2012 and entered this season with no seniors and some questions about the lineup.
Staley took the district’s top seed but split a pair of meetings with Park Hill South during the regular season. The Panthers will hope to earn a rematch and spring an upset as the underdog set to bring every player on the roster back next season.
Park Hill South is scheduled to play a semifinal Thursday, Oct. 5 against either Oak Park (10-11) or North Kansas City (7-14).
“This group is just a great group of girls — fun to be around,” Walker said. “We’ve just had a whole bunch of fun all year long, and they play hard. When you get a group of girls that has a lot of fun together and plays hard and genuinely likes each other, it’s a lot of fun to be me; it’s real easy to be me.
“The sky’s the limit for them. I know we’re limited in some areas, but the way we can string hits together and put pressure on people we could pull an upset.”
Park Hill finished the regular season with six straight losses but enters Class 4 District 16 play with 10 wins — more than the previous two seasons combined (eight). The Trojans had another encouraging performance in the loss to Park Hill South, twice staging short rallies against Dieleman.
In the final home game, Park Hill coach Jackie Qualls played lone senior Jessica Kennedy, and she contributed to the first run.
Kirsten Waldon singled to leadoff the bottom of the third, and Kennedy’s sacrifice bunt put her in scoring position ahead of Izzy Wahlert’s RBI double. Park Hill cut the deficit to 2-1, but trailed 5-1 when Kali Day doubled and scored on Jessie Binckley’s RBI single in the fourth.
Park Hill will be the No. 4 seed in district play and was scheduled to play St. Joseph Central at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 4 in a first round game. The winner advances to play Staley.
Park Hill South 14, Raytown 0, 5 innings
The Panthers closed Suburban Conference Red Division play with an easy win Thursday, Sept. 28 in Raytown, Mo. They finished 7-3 and tied for second with Truman behind Liberty in the final league standings.
Walker played a lineup of mostly reserves, and Park Hill South produced three big innings. Leslie Callahan went 3-for-4 with a double, a triple, three RBIs and two runs scored from the leadoff spot, and Buckler tripled twice, scored twice and drove in two from the No. 2 spot.
Kristen Clevenger scored three times for Park Hill South.
Lee’s Summit West 8, Park Hill 0
The Trojans closed out Suburban Conference Gold Division play winless after a rescheduled game Friday, Sept. 29 in Lee’s Summit, Mo.
In the loss, Park Hill managed just three hits and committed four errors, contributing to two unearned runs against Morehouse, who started and threw all five innings. Lee’s Summit West scored three in the second and three more in the fourth to build a 6-0 lead.
Day doubled for one of Park Hill’s three hits.
Blue Springs 3, Park Hill 2
The Trojans nearly ended their Gold Division skid with a late rally Thursday, Sept. 28 in Blue Springs, Mo.
Down 3-0 after three, Park Hill plated one in the fifth and one in the seventh but stranded three runners total in those innings. Chloe Strickland hit a one-out double to score the run in the fifth with a runner thrown out advancing on the play. After a walk, Morehouse grounded out with two on. In the seventh, Josie Heckman singled with two outs to score Alexa Lashbrook, but the inning ended one batter later.
Park Hill had nine hits total, while Blue Springs managed eight.
Park Hill South 5, Liberty North 4
Dieleman worked out of trouble in the top of the seventh to hold the Red Division win for the Panthers on Tuesday, Sept. 26 at Park Hill South High School in Riverside, Mo.
Kobayashi singled and scored on one of two errors in the bottom of the sixth for what ended up an important run for Park Hill South. Down 5-3, Liberty North plated one run with a two-out single for Ava Curry but had the potential tying run thrown out at home on the play.
Taylor Johnson fielded the single in right field and threw home to Keller to make the tag.
Park Hill South trailed 1-0 after the top of the first but rallied back for two with two outs in the bottom of the frame to take the lead. Phillips doubled with two outs and scored on Keller’s single, and Ahrendt added an RBI single.
Liberty North tied it with one run in the top of the fourth, but Park Hill South again answered with two to take the lead for good. Emma Beuerlein singled with one out, and Kobayashi singled with two outs. After Hagen was hit by a pitch, Phillips hit a two-run single.
Lee’s Summit 14, Park Hill 0, 5 innings
The Trojans put up seven hits but were overwhelmed by two big innings in a Gold Division loss Tuesday, Sept. 26 in Lee’s Summit, Mo.
Lee’s Summit plated six in the first and seven in the third to go up 14-0. Park Hill had runners in four of five innings, including a three-hit first inning that resulted in no runs. Strickland led off with a single and ended up thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.
Lashbrook and Morehouse followed with singles but were stranded.