Platte County takes 3rd in state for 2nd straight season

Three seniors helped Pirates reload, end this season with a victory after another memorable run in Class 4 postseason.
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Platte County earned the Class 4 Missouri State Softball Championships third-place trophy on a long cold and rainy Friday, a major upgrade from the same finish a year earlier despite the condition.

Platte County sophomore Avery Webster celebrates after scoring a run against Incarnate Word Academy on Friday in the Class 4 third-place game in Springfield.

A convincing 12-5 win over Incarnate Word Academy as night descended on Central High School in the third-place game completed a trying day for the Pirates, who now have six top-four state finishes in program history and three since 2014. In 2020, they reached the Class 4 semifinals, but a loss to Webb City resulted in shared third-place honors after COVID-19 restrictions eliminated the consolation games.

Earlier in the day, Washington earned an 10-0 run-rule victory in a semifinal at Parkview High School before going on to beat Rolla 11-0 to win the state championship. The Pirates to travel across Springfield to play out to face Incarnate Word, and the victory provided a measure of accomplishment to cap what now looks like an active two-year run of postseason success set to continue in seasons to come.

“This feels way better. Last year, we were sitting at the (postseason) banquet,” Platte County junior first baseman TK Lawson said of receiving last year’s third-place trophy. “This is a way better experience to do it here. I feel like we were more hyped for this game than the semifinal game. Our whole school was saying it was going to be a rebuilding year and all the other stuff, and we pulled it out and made it state. That is a big accomplishment for us.”

Platte County senior catcher Ali Gill takes a throw at the plate against Incarnate Word Academy in the Class 4 third-place game Friday in Springfield.

Platte County (21-10) returned only four players from last year’s Class 4 state run, and Lawson was the only one to earn postseason honors. However, seniors Koree Church (right field), Ali Gill (catcher) and Chloe Helmer (pitcher) earned starting spots, while sophomore pitcher Kallie Hitzelberger, junior center fielder Abby Reynolds, junior shortstop Demi Reichers, junior third baseman/pitcher Mackenzie Shields, sophomore second baseman Emma Reed and others stepped into increased roles to keep the Pirates rolling.

“The girls took the term rebuilding this year as a chip on their shoulders and motivated them through the year,” Platte County coach Callie Peoples said. “I’m proud they didn’t make it a rebuilding year and to make it back-to-back to the state tournament is difficult to do.”

Prior to the third-place game, Platte County assistant coach Lauren Parrish told the players only two teams ended the season with a win. The Pirates responded to score early.

Platte County sophomore left fielder Avery Webster drew a walk and stole second base and third base with one out. On the latter, Incarnate Word’s catcher threw the ball down to third base went into left field, allowing Webster to score easily.

Platte County players celebrate junior TK Lawson’s two-run home run against Incarnate Word Academy in Friday’s Class 4 third-place game in Springfield.

Incarnate Word (17-13) quickly answered and scored two runs on a sac bunt and a three-base error to take a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first against Hitzelberger, who started both the semifinal and third-place game. She ended up throwing a complete game and allowed five runs (three earned) on just three hits but six walks, while striking out three.

Platte County broke the game open with six runs in the bottom of the second inning and wouldn’t trail again. Riechers’ RBI  single tied the game, and Reed followed with another run-scoring single with the go-ahead run. Webster, the leadoff hitter, added a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2, and Lawson’s two-run home run — her team-leading eight of the season — put an exclamation point on the lengthy rally.

In her next at-bat, Lawson’s two-run double to left field put Platte County up 11-2. She finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs and also scored the final run for the Pirates, coming home on a passed ball — a frequent problem with the adverse weather conditions and frequently wet ball.  

Platte County held a 12-2 lead after three innings, putting the run-rule into play.

Platte County sophomore Kallie Hitzelberger delivers a pitch against Incarnate Word Academy in Friday’s Class 4 third-place game in Springfield.

“The first game didn’t go the way we wanted it to, and it was really really important we could go out and have this game and redeem ourselves,” People said. 

Shields added two of Platte County’s seven hits, while Church had three of their nine walks racked up against three pitchers. Incarnate Word scored a run in the top of the fourth to stave off an early finish and put up two more against Hitzelberger in the top of the seventh before she finished off the victory.

Platte County’s players, despite the chilly air, enjoyed collecting individual medals and the Class 4 third-place plaque after coming back from the earlier disappointment.

“It was nice to end positively with a win,” Peoples said. “We really talked about the first game; we didn’t play our game; they played Washington’s game. We talked to them about going out and playing their game this time around and having fun. We knew it was the last game no matter what, so go play your game and have fun.”

Washington 10, Platte County 0, 6 innings

The Pirates’ often-dynamic offense never found footing against Taylor Brown, Washington’s sophomore ace.

Platte County junior TK Lawson swings at a pitch against Washington in a Class 4 semifinal Friday in Springfield.

Brown yielded just on one hit to Platte County and strikeouts accounted for 15 of the 18 outs she recorded in Friday morning’s state semifinal at Parkview High School. Gill double in the top of the fourth with one out but ended up stranded there when Brown picked up two of her strikeouts to escape the inning with the Blue Jays’ 1-0 lead intact.

“I think she worked the rise ball really well, and she knows how to work inside and outside,” Gil said of Brown. “She’s really impressive to watch.”

Platte County entered state scoring more than 10 runs per game and had only been held scoreless one other time — the other a loss to Lincoln (Nebraska) Southwest in a tournament on Sept. 17.

“She had a lot of pitches, and her velocity was up,” People said. “She worked up, in, out, up, down. She kept us off balance.”

Brown struck out the side in the first, second and fourth innings. In the top of the fifth, Webster reached on an error to open the inning and then Brown struck out the next three.

Platte County junior first baseman TK Lawson takes a throw against Washington in a Class 4 semifinal Friday.

Every batter in Platte County’s lineup struck out at least once. Hitzelberger went five-plus innings for the Pirates before Peoples went to Shields in relief, as Washington pulled away. The Blue Jays scored five in the fifth and four in the bottom of the sixth as Washington pulled away to end the game early.

“I don’t think the score really tells the story; it was 1-0 going into the bottom of the fifth,” Peoples said. “I think our girls came out a little nervous with the semifinal game being at state, and we didn’t get going as early as we wanted. We had chances early on, and they worked hard. That pitcher is really good. I’m not taking anything away from her; she was great.”

Platte County had a runner on second base in the second and third innings on a Shields walk and Reed hit by pitch, but Brown worked around both of those runners.

Washington took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third, starting with a single from Grace Molitor to lead off the inning. She took second on a passed ball, went to third on a sac bunt and scored on a wild pitch.

Hitzelberger escaped a bases-loaded jam to keep it 1-0. She ended up allowing seven runs (six earned) on eight hits while striking out two. Shields allowed the final three runs on two hits and two walks while recording just one out.

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