The Pleasant Hill baseball team’s first trip to the state semifinals didn’t turn out quite the way it had planned.
Aurora scored four runs in the first inning and tallied six more in the third in knocking off the Roosters 12-2 in the Missouri Class 4 semifinals game on Thursday at CarShield Field.
“It’s tough to give a team a four-run spot in the first inning,” Pleasant Hill senior left fielder Mathew Campbell said. “It just builds momentum for them after that. It’s tough to come back from that.”
Pleasant Hill (18-10) will play Westminster Christian Academy (33-2) for third place at 11 a.m. Friday.
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“We’re gonna come out ready to go,” Roosters coach Scott Maid said of Friday’s matchup. “We didn’t come here to take fourth place. We came here to win some ball games.”
Aurora (26-3), which finished third in Class 4 last year, will play Lutheran South (23-8-1) for the championship at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
“That’s what these kids set out to do from the day we left here last year,” Aurora coach James Hoffman said. “They knew we were capable of more and we didn’t get it done. This year, from day one, we started this trek.”
The tone was set early Thursday, as Aurora starter Wyatt Sparks struck out the side in the top of the first inning and Aurora struck for four runs in the bottom half of the inning. The first four batters of the game reached for Aurora and all four scored.
A throwing error allowed the game’s first run to score. Gage Singer then made it 3-0 with a two-run triple into the right-field corner, and he scored one out later when Zach Shoemaker’s fly ball to left was mishandled.
“You don’t want to spot a team several runs straight out of the chute,” Maid said. “But, we’ve been in holes before and we’ve come back. In the first inning, we know there’s a lot of baseball left.”
Pleasant Hill immediately cut its deficit in half with two runs in the top of the second.
Jordan Smith smoked a leadoff double to left-center and James Barnes beat out an infield hit to bring up Jackson Barnes, who got the Roosters on the board with an RBI single to right. After a bunt, Campbell’s infield hit brought in another run, making it 4-2.
“That guy was a heckuva pitcher,” Campbell said of Sparks, who will play in college at Missouri State. “He’s good at mixing up his pitches, and he had good location. Stringing those hits together off him felt like we were back in the game.”
But, Aurora then broke it open with a six-run third. Mathew Miller’s two-run double and Ryan Cline’s two-run triple were the big blows.
Aurora tacked on two more runs in the fourth, and Sparks closed out the Roosters in order in the top of the fifth to give Aurora the mercy-rule victory.
“Third place is always better than fourth place,” Campbell said. “We’re looking to come back out there and put that trophy in our case.”