Platte County senior James Schwieder pulls off his helmet following an out recorded at the plate to end a Class 5 District 8 semifinal loss to Smithville on Thursday at Creekside Baseball Complex in Parkville. ROSS MARTIN/PC Preps Extra

Platte County’s defense of state title ends on dramatic play in district semifinal

Comeback against Smithville comes up short with final out recorded on play at the plate in rematch of rivals.

PARKVILLE, Mo. — Willing to push for a tying run under the circumstance, Rocco Marriott broke from third base as a fastball skipped to the backstop.

Platte County senior Cameron Dean fouls off a pitch agianst Smithville in a Class 5 District 8 semifinal Thursday at Creekside Baseball Complex in Parkville.

Platte County’s freshman pinch-runner made the only viable decision when the ball caromed off the backstop and straight back toward Smithville sophomore catcher Wryker House. Marriott continued the dash toward home plate and attempted an evasive slide only to end up as the final out in the closing sequence of the Warriors’ 5-4 victory in a Class 5 District 8 semifinal Thursday evening at Creekside Baseball Complex.

Smithville (25-11) held on — barely — as Platte County’s defense of a last year’s state championship came to an abrupt conclusion.

“I was super excited and then I saw the ball kick back,” Platte County coach John Sipes said of realizing the almost instantaneous change in likelihood of the runner scoring on the play.

Platte County (18-19) never recaptured the form from the magic and memorable run to the Class 5 title last spring. The Pirates never won more than four games in a row at any point this season but entered the District 8 tournament as a hopeful No. 3 seed with 13 seniors, many a big part of the state championship team and others carving out roles as first-year contributors.

The group included starters Cameron Dean (catcher), James Schwieder (designated hitter), Dylan Robertson (first base), Jordan Hedrick (third base), Aidan Norris (left field) and Dayne Wimberly (right field). There were also important pieces of a deep but inconsistent pitching staff like Tyler Erickson, Hunter Canole, and Ethan Veach; plus part-time starters and contributors Nick Baker (shortstop), Dylan Zimmerman (outfield/pitcher) and Andrew Habel (infield); and reserve catcher Zach Gaspers, who missed almost the entire season due to injury.

Platte County sophomore second baseman Dayton Doll hits a single in the seventh inning against Smithville in a Class 5 District 8 semifinal Thursday at Creekside Baseball Complex in Parkville.

Many played multiple positions this year as Platte County looked for the right combination to unleash the obvious promise of another potential deep postseason run.

“We left a lot on the table,” Sipes said. “We left so much out there with our potential. Obviously, we aren’t an 18-19 team.”

Platte County actually beat second-seeded Smithville during the regular season with a late comeback effort but lost out on seeding based on the cumulative results.

The starters were the same for both teams — senior right-hander Andrew Hedgecorth for Smithville and junior lefty Brayden Carter for the Pirates. Even the flow of the game proved similar with Smithville jumping to an early 2-0 lead then a 3-2 advantage but lost both, only to plate the go-ahead and eventual winning run in the bottom of the fifth.

Platte County scattered nine hits and nearly extended the game with the seventh inning rally.

Hedgecorth exited after the sixth, having 97 pitches with five strikeouts and two walks. The Pirates had produced the comeback in late march against Smithville against the bullpen, pulling away for a 9-5 victory. This time, the Warriors went senior Tristan Henshaw in a save situation.

“(Smithville) just outhit us today,” Sipes said. “That was the name of the game.”

With one out, Platte County sophomore second baseman Dayton Doll singled to center field, and Robertson followed with a single two pitches later to put the potential tying runs on base. Doll went first to third, and Sipes put Marriott in to run for Robertson. Marriott immediately stole second base and went to third while Doll scored on a sacrifice fly from junior center fielder Devin Wassmann, who was just out in front of an off-speed pitch and ended up sending the ball just shy of the warning track in right field.

Platte County freshman Rocco Marriott slides into home but is tagged out to end a Class 5 District 8 semifinal loss to Smithville on Thursday at Creekside Baseball Complex.

With two outs, Schwieder came to the plate, having gone 1-for-3 with a double in his first two at-bats. He worked a 2-1 count and then watched ball three come in low and scoot past the catcher. Marriott never hesitated but ended up a victim of the perfect bounce with House reacting just in time to catch the ball in mid-air then apply the tag in one quick, fluid motion.

Schwieder gave a safe signal then ripped his helmet off in anguish after realizing the finality of the call.

Smithville’s players celebrated outside the home dugout, while Platte County players and coaches looked around in disbelief and likely pondering what might have been if Schwieder’s at-bat continued. The Pirates experienced a lengthy list of frustrating losses, many times owning at least one lead but struggling for positive results in tight games.

Platte County senior Tyler Erickson delivers a pitch against Smithville in a Class 5 District 8 semifinal Thursday at Creekside Baseball Complex in Parkville.

“We couldn’t ever find a rhythm,” Sipes said. “We were just so streaky, up and down.”

Platte County continued to mix and match pitching to situations but intentionally held Carter back for this particular start.

Smithville plated single runs against him in the first and second on RBI singles from senior center fielder Ryker Edwards and junior left fielder Ben Murawski. The Warriors then put a runner on with senior first baseman Sam Wornson’s one out triple in the third, and Sipes pulled Carter with one out and a 1-0 count on Edwards, who was then intentionally walked.

Platte County then used Norris (one innings, four walks, one strikeout), freshman Brennan McLaughlin (1 2/3 innings, two runs allowed) and Erickson (one inning, one walk). Norris allowed the go-ahead inherited runner to score in the third, and Smithville tagged McLaughlin for a single, triple and single to start the fifth and take the lead for good. Edwards finished 2-for-2 with a walk, two RBIs and a run scored.

Ultimately tagged with the loss, McLaughlin worked around an error that put a second runner on base to escape the fifth, and Erickson used a double play to erase a one-out walk in the sixth to give Platte County’s often-potent offense the final chance.

“I don’t expect them to be perfect,” Sipes said. “I can’t expect them not to walk batters or give up hits. We can’t expect the defense not to make errors. We just seemed to compound problems and were just fighting uphill from the start.”

After having just one runner in the first two innings, Norris — the hero of a first round comeback over Pembroke Hill — stayed hot with a double to lead off the top of the third. McLaughlin followed with a single that skipped past Murawski in left field to allow Norris to score and put a runner at third with no outs. Wimberly then plated McLaughlin, installed late in the season as the starting shortstop, with the first tying run.

Platte County senior James Schwieder hits a double against Smithville in a Class 5 District 8 semifinal Thursday at Creekside Baseball Complex in Parkville.

Then came the start of a string of frustrating missed opportunities.

Doll also singled, but Hedgecorth used two strikeouts to escape the two-on, none-out jam for Smithville, which then took the lead back in the bottom half of the inning when Norris walked three straight after Wornson’s triple. The Pirates tied it at three with a combination of a leadoff single from Hedrick, sacrifice bunt from Dean and single from Norris, who finished 2-for-3.

However, Norris was thrown out at second trying to stretch the hit into a double, and in the sixth, Schwieder led off for Platte County with a double, but the Pirates again stranded two — unable to make more of the extra-base hit and Dean’s eight-pitch walk with one out. Hedgecorth again struck out two, but the biggest out came when Norris grounded to third after Dean reached.

Smithville senior third baseman Preston Rash fielded the ball and went to tag Schwieder running to third. Rash did so but then appeared to drop the ball, and after initially thinking he was out, Schwieder meandered to third apparently load the bases. Instead, the Warriors’ coaching staff protested to the home plate umpire, who eventually ruled Schwieder left the baseline after Rash dropped the ball and was out as a result.

Platte County senior first baseman Dylan Robertson goes to scoop a throw during a Class 5 District 8 semifinal against Smithville on Thursday at Creekside Baseball Complex in Smithville.

Hedgecorth then struck out McLaughlin with two on to end the threat.

“We just couldn’t get that timely hit,” Sipes said. “We had that leadoff double that doesn’t score. That was huge, and one base hit in that last inning with guys on and that’s a completely different ball game.”

The ultimate ending wound up unfortunately fitting.

Platte County suffered from a seemingly inescapable combination of missed opportunities and tough luck. There were players who did not fully recapture the high-level form from last year’s late season push, untimely defensive miscues and difficulty settling on lineup and pitching combinations in a packed, difficult schedule. There were also so many positives for the Pirates, even if not overwhelmingly obvious in the midst of the difficult end.

Next year, Platte County will return Doll, a mainstay for two seasons, and McLaughlin up the middle along with senior-to-be outfielder Devin Wassmann as a four-year starter. Carter will lead the pitching staff, while Marriott will be in the mix. The Pirates have only shown two pieces of what most have pegged as a freshman class filled with potential, and there will be many sophomores and juniors on the current roster who will have increased opportunity to contribute in rebuilding to championship form.

“We know that McLaughlin and Marriott are going to be a huge part of the future coming up,” Sipes said. “We wanted them to go ahead and get a taste for it so next year’s there’s no pressure on them; they’ve been here and done that.

Platte County 7, Pembroke Hill 2

Platte County senior Aidan Norris swings at a pitch against Smithville in a Class 5 District 8 semifinal at Creekside Baseball Complex in Parkville.

The Pirates overcame an early two-run deficit behind Norris, who went 3-for-3 with a triple, three runs scored and two RBIs in Wednesday’s first-round matchup at Creekside Baseball Complex.

Pembroke Hill junior Dylan Nutter struck out six and allowed only three hits in 5 1/3 innings but walked five and ended up charged with seven runs — only one earned. The Raiders committed a costly four errors and collapsed while allowing five runs in the bottom of the sixth.

After tying the score 2-2 in the fifth on an error, Platte County regained the momentum to take the lead in the next time up. Pembroke Hill committed another error with one out in the sixth, and Nutter then walked the next two batters. The Pirates’ go-ahead run came home on yet another error, and Norris followed with a title to right field to drive in three. He then scored on an error when the right fielder misplayed the ball.

Norris had all three of Platte County’s hits, while Schwieder drew three walks.

Pembroke Hill scored two unearned runs in the top of the third against Zimmerman, who started and went 2 2/3 innings with one strikeout and no walks. He worked around two singles in the first and then retired the side in order in the second, eventually setting down six batters in a row and seemingly ready for a longer appearance.

Instead, a Platte County error extended the third, and after a Pembroke Hill single chased Zimmerman, Carter came on and allowed a two-run double. He eventually worked just one inning with three strikeouts, a walk and a hit by pitch in addition to the only hit he allowed.

Marriott then drew the assignment of keeping Platte County close while the comeback played out. He scattered four hits and a walk in 3 1/3 innings and earned the win. The biggest moment came in the fifth when he allowed a two-out double, and Pembroke Hill freshman Nick Chiu followed with a single to left field. Norris fielded and threw home to Dean to record the out at home and keep the Pirates within 2-1.

In the bottom of the inning, Norris singled with one out and scored the tying run on an error. Marriott then worked around a one-out single in the sixth and allowed two runners in a scoreless seventh to advance the Pirates into the district semifinal.

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