Platte County showed the fight consistent with the entire successful season but simply couldn’t overcome a disastrous start in the Class 5 District 8 semifinals.
Kearney put up eight runs in the first inning against two pitchers but ended up holding on late for a 10-7 victory Friday afternoon in a rain-postponed matchup at the Urban Youth Academy in downtown Kansas City. Platte County finished with an 18-9 record, increasing on the win total from two years ago with a roster featuring five seniors with little varsity experience due to the cancelation of the 2020 spring season.
Coming into the season only star senior centerfielder Dayton Mitchell returned as a starer for Platte County, while third baseman Sam Peterson, catcher Cayden Davis and pitchers Jackson McMahan and Alex McClure became important cogs as the Pirates won 11 of their first 13. They then went 7-7 down the stretch as coach John Sipes tinkered with an inconsistent lineup and tried to find the right combination to a deep pitching staff.
Unlike the split of two one-run games in the regular season, offense featured heavily in the opening innings in the rubber matchup between Kearney and Platte County. The Bulldogs built an 8-0 lead before seeing the advantage cut to 8-5 and later 10-7.
Peterson went 2-for-3 with two RBIs in his final game for Platte County, while super sophomore Jeter Mauzey capped his likely all-state season with a 2-for-3 day with a double, a triple and three RBIs. Pirates junior shortstop Cameron Lewis added two hits and a walk, scoring three times.
Platte County came up with key hits but simply needed too many after falling behind big.
Kearney entered as the No. 3 seed and put up eight runs in the top of the first. Platte County sophomore Jack Schwieder failed to record an out as the starter, giving up a double and a single to the first two batters before walking the next three to spot the Bulldogs a 2-0 run.
McMahan came into a bases-loaded situation and recorded a strikeout before giving up a bases-loaded triple. He walked one before inducing an groundout for the second out of the inning while the deficit increase to 6-0, but Kearney followed with an RBI single and a double before McMahan hit two straight batters to force in the eighth run.
Platte County’s first runner of the game came when junior Eli Nelson led off the bottom of the second with a single. Peterson followed with an RBI double to center field that scored Nelson from first.
Peterson scored two batters later on Platte County freshman Devin Wassman’s one-out triple to center field, and junior catcher Jake Knudsen’s RBI groundout made it 8-3 going to the third inning. The Pirates then made it 8-5 in the third inning when Lewis doubled, and Mitchell scored two pitches later on Mauzey’s sacrifice fly.
Lewis scored on Peterson’s two-out single.
The biggest inning might have been Kearney adding two right back in the top of the fourth off of Platte County junior left-hander Sawyer Allen, who pitched the final five innings for the Pirates and struck out four while allowing five hits and two walks. Both runs came on two-out singles, and the Bulldogs would end up having just enough cushion.
Mauzey tripled home Lewis in the fifth after he reached with a one-out single, but Platte County stranded him there. Back within 10-6, the Pirates went down in order in the sixth and needed four in the seventh to extend the matchup to extra innings.
Lewis walked with two outs, and scored on Mauzey’s double to make it 10-7, but Nelson popped out to shortstop to end the game and Platte County’s season. Kearney went on to lose to Smithville in the district title game. The Pirates lost both games to Smithville in the regular season but had hoped to earn a third matchup and a shot at reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
Instead, Platte County goes into the offseason minus key starters but returning top pitching options in Allen and junior right-hander Landon Fulk plus Schwieder junior Kole Jenks.
Platte County 8, Van Horn 1
The Pirates never trailed in what ended up a comfortable first-round win over the bracket’s No. 7 seed Tuesday at the Urban Youth Academy.
Platte County pounded out 10 hits, including a triple for Lewis and a double for junior second baseman Ben Spence, and four pitchers combined to strike out seven. McMahan and Schwieder pitched the final 3 1/3 innings, allowing only a walk.
Van Horn briefly tied the game 1-1 with a run in the top of the third despite having only five hits total. Fulk allowed two singles in the inning, the second scoring a run, but Wassmann threw out the runner trying to stretch the hit into a double for the third out.
Platte County took the lead right back with a walk for Mitchell and a single for Lewis to put runners on first and third with no outs. Mitchell scored on a wild pitch, and after Mauzey grounded out, Nelson made it 3-1 with an RBI single.
Spence scored on a passed ball, and the same at-bat ended with sophomore outfielder Garrett Smith driving in Wassmann with a single. Up 5-1 going to the bottom of the sixth, Platte County added insurance runs on Mitchell’s sacrifice fly to score Wassmann before Lewis tripled and scored on Mauzey’s RBI single.
Platte County’s opening run came on Peterson’ RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the first.
Van Horn had two runners with no outs in the top of the first against Allen but did not score, and he worked around a one-out walk in the second. Fulk loaded the bases in the third with the Pirates up 3-1, and McMahan came on with two outs to record the final out and keep the lead intact. The Falcons had just the one runner in the final three innings.