KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Park Hill South senior Jacob Thigpen helped provide his coach with assurance to leave the bullpen alone.
After allowing his only run in a start against Park Hill, Thigpen came back and provided an RBI double in another big inning. Park Hill South coach Josh Walker twice sent a reliever out to warm up, but Thigpen finished his job in an 11-1 six-inning win over the Panthers’ chief rival Monday, May 9 at Park Hill High School.
Thigpen worked out of trouble after allowing a run in the bottom of the fourth then kept the Trojans off the board despite allowing three runners combined in the final two innings.
“When I get a couple of hits, it encourages me to go out there (on the mound),” Thigpen said. “I know I’m going to strike people out and throw strikes and get it done.”
Thigpen hit an RBI double in each of Park Hill South’s big innings, and Andrew Aswegan and Ryan Hagen provided bookended home runs to help the Panthers cruise to an important win.
Park Hill South locked up at least a share of the Suburban Conference Red Division title with a chance to grab the outright crown in a regular season finale scheduled for Wednesday, May 11 at Park Hill South High School in Riverside, Mo. Park Hill entered with a chance to put numerous other scenarios in play, but the Trojans lost their fifth straight, a stretch that took them out of contention to share the Red Division championship.
“It’s Park Hill. It always feel good to beat them, but to spread them, it’s even better,” Hagen said.
The troubles for Park Hill began early.
Aaron Ashby, a hard-throwing lefty, retired the first two batters in the top of the first before walking Ryan Callahan. Thigpen followed with his first double to put the Panthers up 1-0, and Aswegan hit a 1-0 pitch over the wall in left field for a quick 3-0 lead.
Callahan walked again in the top of the fifth after Park Hill had cut its deficit to 4-1.
Thigpen followed with a run-scoring single to right-center field, and he scored two batters later on Hagen’s infield single. Aswegan, who singled in between, went to second on an error, advanced on Hagen’s grounder and scored on a balk to put Park Hill down 7-1.
In the bottom of the inning, Thigpen walked No. 9 hitter Griffin Fletcher to start the inning but worked through the 1-2-3 hitters to avoid any damage. Liam Henry, who finished 0-for-3, flew out to center for the final out, which Colin Farrow nabbed with a hint of trouble.
Park Hill South put the run rule into play against reliever Bryce Balusek.
Third baseman Jacob Kline walked and later scored on Callahan’s sacrifice fly while Thigpen doubled to right-center again to score Malik Stevenson, who singled earlier in the inning. Thigpen took third on a wild pitch and scored on Aswegan’s sacrifice fly which emptied the bases with two outs.
Hagen hit the next pitch he saw over the left-field fence to put the Panthers up 11-1.
“You’re never trying to hit a home run,” Hagen said. “I just got ahold of that one. It’s just my second one ever. It’s not like I do it all the time. It just went.”
Thigpen struck out the first three batters of the seventh, but Conner Morehouse reached first on a dropped third strike. Nate Thompson, who doubled in Morehouse after he walked with two outs in the fourth, then followed with a single. Chase McCollom pinch hit and flew out to right field to end the game.
Thigpen allowed five hits, two more to shortstop Tyler Watson, and three walks — two to Fletcher, but the right-handed ace also struck out nine.
Park Hill South’s early lead increased to 4-0 in the second after Patrick Sparks, the Panthers’ No. 9 hitter singled. Kline followed with a single, but he was forced out on Stevenson’s fielder’s choice. With two outs and runners on first and third, Stevenson — a sophomore — appeared to mess up a delayed double steal, but Ashby’s pickoff throw to third base went wild, allowing Sparks to score.
Stevenson went 1-for-4 from the No. 2 spot as a designated hitter but continued to show off Park Hill South’s growing depth.
Aswegan hit his second home run after starting the season as the No. 9 hitter, while Stevenson continues to bat around .500, forcing his way into the lineup most days. In addition, Farrow, Sparks and Brandon Rice have developed into a capable bottom part of the order for the high-scoring Panthers.
“The kids have done a great job of putting the ball in play,” Walker said. “It’s setting up pretty nice for us if we can keep going. I knew that we’d have some starting pitching depth, but we lost a lot of offense off last year’s team, but to watch these kids come around the way they have has been a lot of fun.”
Park Hill South (16-10) has won six of seven since the Northland Invitational and earned the No. 3 seed in Class 5 District 16. The Panthers open the first round with sixth-seeded Oak Park, and the winner advances to face second-seeded Platte County.
The six-team field features three Suburban Conference division champions — Park Hill South (Red), Platte County (Blue) and top-seeded Staley (White).
Park Hill (12-14) was scheduled to finish out Red Division play Thursday, May 12 in a rescheduled game with St. Joseph Central. The Trojans stand at 5-4 in league play after dropping its last two to fall from a tie for second with a chance to win the conference to out of contention. They also lost to Liberty North in addition to Lee’s Summit North’s doubleheader sweep over the weekend during the current streak.
In the District 16 bracket, Park Hill will be the No. 4 seed and start with Central in a first round matchup Tuesday, May 17 in St. Joseph, Mo.
Camdenton 1, Park Hill South 0
The Lakers won the opener of a doubleheader Saturday, May 7 in Camdenton, Mo., stranding seven runners and putting out four more on the basepaths to hold the shutout.
Park Hill South put a runner on in every inning, but Camdenton’s catcher threw out two Panthers trying to steal and two more were cut down on fielder’s choices. Park Hill South failed to score in the second despite a one-out triple from Ryan Hagen and in the fourth after Ryan Callahan’s leadoff double.
In six of seven innings, Park Hill South put the leadoff runner on base.
Camdenton scored in the bottom of the second off of Panthers starter Jake Evans, who allowed six hits and one walk. Park Hill South also finished with six hits.
Park Hill South 16, Camdenton 5
The Panthers never trailed but ended up playing all seven innings in the second game despite the big run total.
Eight of nine batters scored at least one run, and Park Hill South plated more than one in four different innings. The Panthers took a 2-0 lead in the second on Zach Suchanick’s two-run doubles and increased their advantage to 6-1 in the third with four walks, two singles and a fielder’s choice.
Sparks provided a two-out, two-run single.
Camdenton closed within 6-5 before Park Hill South tallied 10 unanswered in the final three innings. Suchanick tripled and scored in the fifth, and the Panthers added six more — five unearned in the sixth. They batted 11 with help from three Camdenton errors.
Hagen hit an RBI double, and Kline scored two with another RBI double before he scored on Farrow’s triple one batter later.
Park Hill South 12, Raytown 2, 6 innings
The Panthers pounded out 17 hits against five pitchers and scored in every inning Friday, May 6 in Raytown, Mo. in a nonconference win.
Thigpen (two innings) and Collin Brougham (four innings) combined on the win for Park Hill South, which took a 3-0 lead in the top of the first. Aswegan hit an RBI single, and two batters later, Farrow hit a two-out, two-run single. The Panthers scored three more in the second after Sparks led off with a double, and Callahan provided a two-run single and later scored to put them up 6-0.
Doubles for Suchanick and Rice in the third scored one, and doubles from Stevenson and Aswegan led to two more in the fourth. Park Hill South’s final run in the sixth came on Farrow’s two-out double to center field, which helped invoke the run rule.