An uncharacteristic defensive performance brought a sudden and swift end to Park Hill South’s season.
Oak Park scored 12 unanswered runs — six unearned — but then barely held on for a 12-11 win in a Class 4 District 16 semifinal Thursday, Oct. 5 in Kansas City, Mo. Second-seeded Park Hill South failed to win a postseason game for a second straight year, the Panthers falling victim to another upset against a team they handled in the regular season.
Park Hill South junior Gracie Dieleman retired Oak Park’s first seven batters in order and then worked around a bases-loaded jam in the third. The Panthers then increased their lead to 5-0 in the bottom of the inning on RBI doubles for Meggen Keller and senior Taylor Johnson plus Kristen Clevenger’s two-out RBI single.
In the fourth, Park Hill South committed a pair of errors that led to two runs, and Oak Park tied the score 5-5 with a three-run fifth. The sixth ended up being the Panthers’ undoing, committing a critical error during a hit barrage.
Oak Park started the sixth with three straight hits and recorded eight total in the inning to plate seven runs.
Down 12-5, Park Hill South started its comeback in the sixth with four straight one-out singles. Kate Kobayashi — the Panthers’ junior shortstop — scored one with an RBI single, and sophomore Jessie Hagen followed with a run-scoring fielder’s choice to make it 12-8.
In the bottom of the seventh, Sam Ahrendt, who hit an RBI double in the first, led off with a single, and Park Hill South had two on with two outs thanks to an error. Leslie Callahan (three hits) then singled home Ahrendt, and Kobayashi followed with a two run double to center field to make it 12-11.
Hagen flied out two pitches later with the potential tying run stranded at second base.
With just one senior on the roster (Johnson), Park Hill South closed out an encouraging year at 18-11 after setting a school record for stolen bases in a season with a highly charged offense. The Panthers scored eight or more runs in 19 games and had a win over eventual Class 4 District 16 champion Staley during the regular season.
St. Joseph Central 6, Park Hill 5, 8 innings
The Trojans forged a late rally to force extra innings but couldn’t advance out of the first round in the six-team District 16 bracket.
Seeded at No. 4, Park Hill lost a 2-0 lead Wednesday, Oct. 4 in Kansas City, Mo. and trailed 5-2 after the top of the sixth. Walks for Kali Day and Sam Bertoncino started the bottom half of the inning for the Trojans, and a two-out error on Miranda LaMunyon’s ground ball scored two.
A walk to Izzy Wahlert and an error on Chloe Strickland’s ground ball made it 5-5.
After Central went down in order in the top of the seventh, Park Hill had a pair of singles and the winning run on second base twice. Kirsten Waldon grounded into a fielder’s choice, and Alexa Lashbrook lined out to end the threat.
Central scored the go-ahead run with a pair of extra-base hits against Park Hill junior Peyton Morehouse in the eighth. The Trojans loaded the bases in their half of the eighth with singles for Wahlert and Strickland and a walk to Josie Heckman.
Morehouse grounded back to the pitcher with the potential tying run forced out at home, and Day popped out in the final at-bat. She hit a two-out, two-run home run in the first to give Park Hill its initial lead of 2-0 in the bottom of the first.
Park Hill finished its season at 10-19 but more than doubled its win total from the previous two seasons combined (four in 2015 and four in 2016). The Trojans had only one senior — Jessica Kennedy — on a youthful roster that features many players thrust into starting roles as freshmen.