DEARBORN, Mo. — First, West Platte lost a standout starting pitcher then the Bluejays lost their double-digit lead.
In the end, three straight run-scoring rallies were more than enough for West Platte to earn a 17-6 win against North Platte in KCI Conference play Wednesday, March 30 at Dean Park. The focus then shifted to the health of Luke Horseman, a senior who exited the game after a collision at first base in the top of the fourth inning.
A key cog in West Platte’s run to a third-place state finish in Class 2 last year, Horseman suffered an apparent injury to his right arm and left the field.
“I’m not a doctor; I’m barely a baseball coach. You know, we’re hoping for the best, especially for him and his future,” West Platte coach Tanner Lawson said after the game, later confirming the injury would force Horseman to miss time.
In addition to pitching duties, Horseman plays shortstop and occupies the No. 2 spot in the lineup. He had limited mobility in his injured arm after the play with immediate swelling.
West Platte started the season as one of the favorites in the KCI with hopes of returning the playoffs behind ace McKaulley Stephenson and Horseman, signed to play golf at Missouri Western.
“If he is out, it’s going to be a big blow for us,” Lawson said.
Horseman’s two-run triple in the top of the third started West Platte’s first rally.
Six runs in the frame increased the Bluejays’ lead to 7-0 after Kyle Tabaka capped the scoring with a two-run single up the middle. Horseman then went back out and finished his third straight scoreless inning, allowing only a leadoff walk before retiring six of the next nine on strikeouts.
Leading off the top of the fourth, Horseman hit a groundball to North Platte first baseman Bryntin Crockett, and the two collided as Crockett ran to the bag to collect the out. Horseman went tumbling down the line before going to the dugout and showing signs of the injury.
Horseman then left the field for further evaluation.
After batting 11 in the third, 10 ended up coming to the plate for West Platte in the fourth. Tabaka hit another two-run single, this one to left field, and the Bluejays scored four more to go up 11-0.
“We just had to forget about (the injury) and move on and think about the next play,” said Tabaka, who went 2-for-4 and also scored a run.
Brett Shepardson took over for Horseman on the mound, allowing six runs, only one earned in his two innings of work. West Platte committed four errors total.
Remington Wilson scored the Panthers first run on a fielder’s choice, and two more came home on Jacob Stubbs’ infield grounder hit into no man’s land between Shepardson and third baseman Michael Devers. Shepardson’s throw to first hit Stubbs in the back, allowing a second run to score.
North Platte closed within 11-4 when Trevor Lamar beat out the throw on a potential 6-3 double play ground ball.
“You lose your No. 2 pitcher and one of your better athletes on the team,” Lawson said. “You’re coaching 16-, 17-year-old kids, and they’re going to take it to the field with them. I thought Brett did a great job minimizing the damage.
“We made several basic blunders there that made him look bad.”
West Platte answered with six more against North Platte reliever Andrew Roberts in the top of the fifth.
McKaulley Stephenson hit a one-out single and another of the Panthers’ six errors scored a second. Jack Summers and Grant Eagen then added a pair of two-run singles that put West Platte up 17-6.
Needing four runs to avoid the run rule, North Platte only put up two in the fifth on Crockett’s two-run single.
North Platte only allowed 10 hits, but only three of the Bluejays’ 17 runs were earned thanks to the porous defense. West Platte took a 1-0 lead in the second when Shepardson singled and came around to score on two errors, the first of five unearned runs against Panthers starter Blake Toliver (3 1/3 innings, two walks, three strikeouts).
All nine runs against Roberts were unearned despite him allowing seven hits and a walk in 1 2/3 innings.
West Platte 1, Bishop LeBlond 0, 8 innings
Stephenson’s sacrifice fly scored McNair with the walkoff run Tuesday, March 29 in Weston, Mo.
McNair led off with a walk, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error. West Platte catcher Peyton Morris drew a walk with one out, and Stephenson, who threw a complete game to earn the win on the mound, lifted the winning fly ball to center field.
West Platte recorded just five hits, all singles, and stranded four runners in scoring position. LeBlond threw out Morris at the plate in the fourth inning.
Stephenson struck out 11 and worked around three hits, including a one-out double in the fifth. He struck out the batter before and the two after the biggest hit.
West Platte Invitational
The Bluejays finished second at their round robin after splitting a pair of games Saturday, April 2 at Benner Park in Weston, Mo.
West Platte won its opening game 16-0 against Schlagle (Kan.) with Mitch Moppin picking up the win. He pitchedfour innings and allowed only one hit while striking out five.
Eagan, a sophomore, went 3-for-3 with an RBI and three runs scored, while seniors Shepardson and Morris finished with four RBIs each.
In the deciding game, West Platte rallied from a 9-3 deficit against East Buchanan entering the seventh inning to score seven runs. The Bluejays’ 10-3 lead didn’t hold, and the Bulldogs scored twice to walk off with the win and the championship without West Platte recording an out in the seventh.
Morris finished with three RBIs in the second game and seven on the day.
Horseman did not play for West Platte in either game.
North Platte Invitational
The Panthers recorded their first win of the season during a triangular Saturday, April 2 at Dean Park in Dearborn, Mo.
Now at 1-6 overall, North Platte beat East Atchison 11-1 in its opener to stop a five-game losing skid. Toliver earned the win, pitching five innings in a complete game effort.
North Platte scored 11 runs in the bottom of the fifth for a walkoff win.
A 6-3 loss to Braymer capped a difficult week with the next chance at a win scheduled for Tuesday, April 5 against University Charter Academy. The result was not available at The Citizen’s deadline.
North Platte is 0-3 in KCI Conference play with a 10-0 loss to Lawson on Tuesday, March 29 ahead of the blowout loss to West Platte.