Platte County junior shortstoph Dayton Doll slides into second base in the Class 5 District 8 championship game against Kearney on Monday at Creekside Baseball Park in Parkville. TODD NUGENT/PC Preps Extra

After revival, Platte County’s late-season surge ends with loss in Class 5 District 8 title game

Kearney scores in each of 1st 4 innings to pull away from Pirates, who entered having won 17 of 20 overall with just 1 hit total allowed in previous 2 wins.

The momentum finally ran out, and Platte County’s revival late in the season ended up one game short of a playoff return.

Platte County senior Devin Wassmann walks off the field after a loss to Kearney in the Class 5 District 8 title game Monday at Creekside Baseball Park in Parkville.

Kearney claimed a second straight Class 5 District 8 title with a definitive 9-1 victory on a sunny Monday afternoon at Creekside Baseball Park in Parkville. The Pirates entered winners in 17 of the previous 20 games and allowed just one hit total in back-to-back victories over seventh-seeded Van Horn and third-seeded Smithville to reach the championship game.

However, Kearney scored at least one run in each of the first four innings and nearly invoked the run-rule in a second victory over Platte County this season, one more dominant than a 3-1 decision during the regular season.

Platte County (20-12) ended up able to employ the plan of limited use for three standout pitchers that drove late season success but not in the manner expected with senior ace Brayden Carter, senior relief specialist Isaiah Smith and sophomore Brennan McLaughlin all allowing multiple runs before sophomore Rocco Marriott came on and worked two scoreless innings. The Bulldogs put up five on Carter, who exited with two on and none out in the second inning, and created a daunting comeback scenario.

Kearney senior ace Eli Helberg stuck out five in five scoreless innings before giving way to senior Cameron Webster to close out the win.

Platte County senior Brayden Carter delivers a pitch against Kearney in the Class 5 District 8 title game Monday at Creekside Baseball Park in Parkville.

Platte County senior centerfielder Devin Wassmann and junior shortstop Dayton Doll — the only returning starters in the field from the 2022 Class 5 state championship team — combined for four hits, and the offense didn’t find the same sustained success as the first two district wins. Doll singled with two outs in the first inning but ended up stranded, and the Pirates couldn’t score a run off of an error and a single for sophomore rightfielder Rocco Marriott with two outs in the second.

Kearney led 6-0 when Doll tripled to center with two outs in the third, and Platte County’s deficit increased to 7-0 by the time Wassmann doubled to lead off the fourth. Even with runners on base in each of his five innings, Helberg struck out five to help keep the Pirates off the scoreboard.

Coming off five nearly perfect innings in the win over Smithville, Carter, who appeared in Platte County’s semifinal and state championship game win two years ago, never found a groove. He hit Kearney’s first batter on a 3-0 count then allowed a single and a sacrifice fly that put Kearney up 1-0 as the first out was recorded. Jackson Helberg, the Bulldogs star senior catcher, then added an RBI single to double the lead.

Platte County senior Isaiah Smith delivers a pitch against Kearney in the Class 5 District 8 title game Monday at Creekside Baseball Park in Parkville.

Kearney chased Carter with a triple and back-to-back singles in what turned out to be an unfitting final appearance of his standout career.

Smith allowed two more runs on five hits in 1 1/3 innings, and McLaughlin gave up two more, walking two and allowing two hits in 1 2/3 innings. He gave up back-to back singles and hit a batter to load the bases in the fourth, and his first walk plated a run that put Kearney up 8-0 with the bases still loaded and no outs. The Bulldogs added a sacrifice fly to move within one run of a walkoff five-inning victory, but McLaughlin came left the bases loaded to extend the game.

Marriott ended up recording the only strikeout for Platte County’s pitchers. He retired Kearney in order in the fifth, and the Pirates broke the shutout against Webster in the sixth after Wassmann’s one-out triple. He scored on McLaughlin’s RBI groundout. That turned out to be their final runner.

Platte County started the season at just 3-8 against a daunting schedule but found form with the use of Carter-McLaughlin-Smith in varying orders in big games, while Marriott developed into a dependable second starter. The Pirates’ lengthy run of success from that point on included a sweep of Grain Valley on the way to a second straight Suburban Conference White Division title plus impressive wins over Class 6 Lee’s Summit West, Lee’s Summit North, Blue Springs and Blue Springs South.

Platte County senior Brian Chandler swings at a pitch against Kearney in the Class 5 District 8 title game Monday at Creekside Baseball Park in Parkville.

A seven-player senior class keyed the turnaround. In addition to Wassmann’s four years as a starter, Brian Chandler moved from third base to first base in his first year as a full-time starter and became a dependable presence in the field and in the cleanup spot. Stearns continued the recent run of standout catchers, while Drew Boyer filled an important role as part of a three-player rotation in left field.

Carter spent the past two years as the ace of the staff after Platte County put him into the rotation late in his sophomore season after an unexpected breakout performance in a win over Liberty North. Smith debuted as a junior and earned a larger, visible role this season, while JP Wormington also made multiple appearances on the mound, including a memorable senior night start and a combined no-hitter against Belton that locked up the conference title.

Platte County didn’t quite recapture the magic that led to the 2022 state title but did return to the district title game after bowing out in the semifinals to end 2023 with an 18-19 record. The Pirates have a pair of key pitchers and seven position players with significant starting experience next season who will have an opportunity to build on this year’s resurgence.

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