Young Wildcats learn in loss to loaded Park Hill team

Cody Thorn
The Examiner

A makeshift home game turned into a tough loss for Blue Springs on Wednesday afternoon.

Park Hill scored two runs in three consecutive innings early and then escaped a jam in the sixth to secure a 6-2 Suburban Big Eight win in a game that was moved from Kansas City to Blue Springs late in the afternoon.

Park HIll’s field was unplayable due to rain throughout the morning but with Blue Springs having a turf field, the two schools agreed to flipping home games – meaning when the two meet on April 30 it will be at Park Hill.

The Wildcats had a chance to snap a three-game losing streak and were given the opportunity to make the score closer in the sixth inning but only mustered one run.

“That kind of has been the story of our season,” Blue Springs coach Tim McElligott said. “We are very young, we start three freshmen and sometimes start three sophomores. We are learning as we go. We have been able to jump out and get early leads and we kind of give it up and then we fight back and keep competing.”

The sixth inning started with Park Hill making a pitching change, going to Carter Scott on the mound in relief of starter Jake Daneff.

Senior Trent Martin drew a walk to open the inning and then freshman Lincoln Stephenson singled to right field. Freshman Colton Gibler reached on an infield single to shortstop. Alec Butler singled to left field to bring home Martin, cutting the deficit to 6-2.

With the bases loaded and no outs on the board, the Wildcats brought the tying run to the plate.

Park Hill coach Blaine Lewis went to talk to Scott.

“I tried to boost his confidence and tell him he is the right man for the job as our stopper,” Lewis said. “And he really responded, you know. He was the right man and he got those guys 1-2-3, boom.”

The right-hander, who has signed with Dordt University, got three straight strikeouts – two looking – to end the scoring threat.

“We thought we could scratch two runs there but we’ve got to be able to put the ball in play,” McElligott said. “You think you would score more (than one run), but it's just learning. We only have two with any varsity experience. We are learning and they keep fighting and that is all we can do. Our pitching is keeping us in games; we need just timely hitting and we’re just not getting it right now.”

Blue Springs kept itself only down 6-1 in the top half of the inning by escaping a bases-loaded jam as well. With two outs, a pair of singles and a walk loaded the bases, but sophomore Myles Chapman came in to get a ground ball to end the threat.

The seventh inning featured each team turning a double play.

Blue Springs (5-8, 0-4) jumped ahead early by scoring a run in the first inning.

Nick Gibler singled to open the first and then moved up on junior Brogan Turpin’s single. A passed ball allowed Gibler to score later in the inning when Martin was batting.

Park Hill (7-3, 2-1) tied the game on a passed ball and then went up 2-1 on Daneff’s RBI groundout in the second inning.

In the third inning a pair of walks – to Missouri State signee Drew Townsend and Newman signee Jack Kiser – set the stage for a two-run double to center field by LSU signee Carter Jensen, ranked as the No. 67-ranked prospect in the 2021 draft by Baseball America.

“Jensen is a first- or second-round draft pick and he swings with wood,” McElligott said. “To hold him to only a double was a great job by (starter) Michael (Infranca) and Joey (Gibler).”

Park Hill added two more runs on a double squeeze in the fourth inning, which made it 6-1. Daneff and Jackson Kline, a Kansas commit, each singled. Sam Sweeney laid down a bunt and reached on a throwing error. Daneff scored from third on the play and Kline got to second and kept on running, easily scoring from first.

“We knew it was something in their playbook,” McElligott said of the squeeze. “We bobbled it and let that run score. We are not able to give extra outs and that has been our M.O. We are so young ... it will click. They are fighting and doing everything they can. It will all come together. It is still early and Park Hill is a great team.”