KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After a dominant win in the opener of a rivalry doubleheader and with ace Liam Henry set to pitch the second game, Park Hill looked in a solid position to pull a sweep.
Park Hill South didn’t make the task easy, roughing up the left-hander and taking a big lead at Park Hill High School on a sun-splashed Saturday, April 8 afternoon. In fact, Park Hill didn’t end up being a factor until a nine-run rally in the bottom of the sixth gave the Trojans their first lead.
Park Hill still endured a shaky top of the seventh before holding on for an 11-10 victory with the Trojans pulling a second big comeback in a span of three days.
“It’s nothing about South,” Park Hill coach Greg Reynolds said. “It’s a big win for us because they’re in our district — not our school district, in our baseball district. This is about our team. We’re coming together. They like each other. They’re playing the game the right way for the most part.”
Now on an eight-game winning streak, Park Hill has put together one of the best starts to a season in Reynolds’ nearly two-decade tenure with the program. The run of eight straight wins going into the week included a seven-run comeback against Lee’s Summit West two days ahead of the doubleheader with Park Hill South.
Henry, a commit to Arkansas and a 2018 Major League Baseball draft prospect, didn’t have his best game on the mound but did score the original go-ahead run in a wild bottom of the sixth. Down 8-2 to start the inning, Park Hill sent 15 players to bat, while Park Hill South coach Josh Walker shuffled through five pitchers — two unable to record an out.
Austin Brooks led off with a double before walks to Zayne Morrow and Chase McCollom loaded the bases. Ryan Lack, who entered as a relief pitcher in the top of the inning, then hit a two-run double to close Park Hill within 8-4.
“We believed in ourselves the whole time,” said Park Hill senior shortstop Tyler Watson, who was in the on-deck circle when Lack doubled. “Any big hit gets the energy going, but there’s not a person on this team that I don’t believe will step up and get a big hit.”
Watson, Trevor Guzzo and Liam Henry all followed with RBI singles. Guzzo scored the tying run on a wild pitch.
Henry then stole second and third base, the second coming as junior first baseman Grant Mertz struck out. The ball bounded away from Park Hill South sophomore catcher Jackson Dixon on the play, but Mertz didn’t take off to first right away.
When he did, Jackson threw to first, and Henry broke for home, scoring the go-ahead run with the Panthers unable to complete the strikeout with his throw.
“On the throw, I was going to go no matter what,” Henry said.
The first 10 batters reached for Park Hill, capped with Brooks being hit by a pitch to load the bases. After a Morrow grounded out, McCollom belted a double to right-center field off of Dominic Scudiero for the final two runs.
Alex Rodriguez came on to record the final two outs, keeping Park Hill South within 11-8.
“You never think you’re going to have a nine-run rally,” Reynolds said, “so that’s not really in your mindset.”
Lack recorded only one out in the seventh on a fielder’s choice before Park Hill South designated hitter Stephen Personelli scored one with a one-out triple to center field. He scored on a wild pitch to pull the Panthers within 11-10, but Park Hill reliever Ethan Boyd struck out the final two batters to preserve the unlikely comeback.
Park Hill South struck for three runs in the top of the first off of Henry, who threw 90 pitches in 5 1/3 innings.
Jake Kline, the Panthers’ senior third baseman, led off with a triple and scored on a wild pitch, while Billy Eggers plated two more with a two-out double belted to right field. The lead increased to 5-1 in the second when Henry hit Rodriguez with a pitch and gave up a two-out single to Kline.
Both runners scored on a throwing error from Watson.
Park Hill’s first two runs came on a single from Mertz in the first to score Watson after he led off reaching on an error and an RBI double from Mertz in the third to score Henry after his leadoff double. Park Hill South starter Ryan Hagen retired the next three batters in the third and then benefited from a double play to end a potential threat in the fourth.
Park Hill South seemed in complete control after Andrew Aswegan led off the sixth with a home run to right field off of Henry — the second of the day for the senior outfielder. Henry and then Lack hit back-to-back batters with one out in the sixth, and the Panthers turned those into two more runs to take the 8-2 lead.
“(A comeback) was in their mind,” Reynolds said. “If we do something, put a little pressure on them, the normal response for anybody is: what’s going to happen next?”
In the first game of the doubleheader, Park Hill South’s offense didn’t fare as well.
Park Hill built a 5-0 lead with Mertz contributing a first-inning RBI double. The Panthers scored twice in the top of the fourth with Aswegan’s solo home run to the opposite field and Hagen’s one-out triple leading to a second.
Henry led off the bottom of that inning with a double, scoring on Mertz’s single. Joseph Daneff followed with an RBI double, and he scored on Morrow’s two-run home run. McCollom finished the scoring for the Trojans with a leadoff triple in the fifth, scoring on Henry’s RBI single.
Prior to the doubleheader opener, Park Hill hadn’t beaten Park Hill South since going 1-2 against the Panthers in three meetings in 2014.
“For us, I think we expected to win both,” Henry said. “We’re really confident right now in how we’re playing and feel like we can beat any team.”
Park Hill 16, North Kansas City 2
The Trojans ran their winning streak to eight in a row with an easy win Monday, April 10 at Macken Park in North Kansas City, Mo.
In all, 14 Park Hill players collected hits, and the Trojans scored in five of seven innings, including seven in the top of the seventh. Brooks had a double and a triple, and he finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs scored. Reid King, Mertz, Bryce Balusek and Dylan Coons also had doubles.
Mertz threw five innings to earn the win, allowing just two runs on three hits and three walks.
Park Hill 9, Lee’s Summit North 6
The Trojans improved to 2-0 in Suburban Conference Gold Division play on Friday, April 7 at Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Mo.
Park Hill led 9-0 entering the top of the seventh when Lee’s Summit North put up six runs against Brett Nelson. Balusek came in and recorded the final two outs to earn the save.
Watson and Mertz both homered for Park Hill, which scored at least one run in the second, third and fourth innings. Ashton Brady (two), Ben Zahnd, Henry, Guzzo and Brooks all had doubles, while McCollom had a triple.
Zahnd finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs, while Watson also drove in two and scored two.
Park Hill 11, Lee’s Summit West 9
The Trojans forged a big comeback in the top of the seventh inning, then held off a late rally Thursday, April 6 in Lee’s Summit, Mo.
Down to the final three outs, Park Hill scored seven in the seventh to turn a 7-4 deficit into an 11-7 lead. Lee’s Summit West countered with two in the bottom of the seventh — both unearned runs against Boyd, who came on in relief and held on to earn the win.
Park Hill held leads of 2-0 and 4-1 before the Titans put up two runs in both the bottom of the fourth and fifth innings.
The offense kept Park Hill in it, totaling 14 hits with all but one player scoring at least one run. Guzzo went 4-for-5 with two runs scored, while Henry scored three times. Mertz drove in three runs.
St. Joseph Central 4, Park Hill South 3
The Panthers lost a lead for the fourth time in five games, dropping to 5-9 overall and 1-3 in Suburban Conference Red Division play Monday, April 10 in St. Joseph, Mo.
An unearned run in the fifth gave Park Hill South a 3-2 lead, but Central scored twice in the bottom of the sixth to take its first lead of the game. Dixon led off the Panthers’ seventh with a single, but the next three batters failed to advance him.
Park Hill South led 1-0 after the top of the fourth, 2-1 after the top of the fifth and 3-2 after the top of the sixth. Dixon doubled and scored on Rodriguez’s single in the fifth for the Panthers’ only RBI.
Liberty North 13, Park Hill South 5
The Panthers’ string of tough finishes continued Friday, April 7 in Liberty, Mo.
Liberty North scored 13 runs — 10 unearned — in the bottom of the sixth inning after Collin Brougham threw five shutout innings to open the game. Brougham started the sixth for Park Hill South but ended up charged with three runs — one earned — without recording another out.
Scudiero and Sam Beuerlein eventually finished the inning with the last eight runs — all unearned — charged to Beuerlein.
Park Hill South built a 5-0 lead starting with RBI singles for Kline and Malik Stevenson in the third. Personelli added an RBI in the fourth, and Dixon and Kline had two more RBI singles in the sixth.
Truman 7, Park Hill South 6, 10 innings
The Patriots tallied an unearned run for a Suburban Conference Red Division victory Thursday, April 6 in Independence, Mo.
Gehrig Bristow’s RBI single ended the game after Park Hill South had scored twice in the top of the seventh to force extra innings. The Panthers led 2-0 after the top of the first and immediately gave up the lead in the bottom of the inning with Truman tallying three runs off of starter Chase Putnam, who walked four.
Park Hill South ended up using five pitchers.
Beuerlein’s RBI triple in the top of the sixth gave Park Hill South a 4-3 lead, but Truman countered with three runs off of Jake Evans to move within three outs of the win. The Panthers’ seventh-inning rally started with Kline’s walk in a nine-pitch at-bat and a single for Malik Stevenson.
Both ended up scoring.
Park Hill South only had two runners in three extra innings. Eggers walked in the top of the tenth but ended up stranded at third base.