Pleasant Hill’s baseball team bus got a police escort Wednesday as it made its way out of town. Purple-clad Rooster fans lined much of the route to see their team off on their ride to suburban St. Louis.
The excitement hasn’t died down yet.
Less than a week earlier, Pleasant Hill had earned its first-ever trip to the state baseball final four with a thrilling 11-10 eight-inning victory over Smithville in the Class 4 quarterfinals. As they were heading for CarShield Field in O’Fallon to face Aurora May 25 in the state semifinals, Roosters coach Scott Maid said his team was still feeling the energy from that heart-stopping win.
“It was a game like no other,” Maid said. “There’s just no way to describe it.”
Pleasant Hill, 18-9, rallied from 5-0 and 9-3 deficits before Matt Campbell’s two-strike, two-out walkoff two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning. And that was after Pleasant Hill rallied for two runs in the sixth to beat Pembroke Hill 6-5 in sectionals.
“I think those games gave us more energy,” Maid said. “We know if we can come back, the game’s never over. We know we’ll give everything we’ve got on the field. When a team does that, it’s not easy to beat them.”
Pleasant Hill didn’t have that confidence as the start of the season, when the Roosters lost three straight and stood 5-5. The Roosters were without starting shortstop Jordan Smith, who was nursing a knee injury, and Maid said the team was having a hard time adjusting to his absence.
“We had guys playing in different positions and different roles,” Maid said. “I think when Jordan returned, or chemistry got back to a normal level. Once he returned we were able to get back in our groove again.”
Pleasant Hill was 12-9 after a 12-3 loss to Grain Valley May 8, but that was their last loss leading up to state. The Roosters’ six-game winning streak included a second-consecutive district title for the first time in school history along with their first-ever sectional and quarterfinal wins.
Powering that surge has been senior James Barnes, who has been hitting over .400 the last three weeks. Barnes has homered in the Roosters’ last three games, including a three-run shot against Smithville. He also has a 7-2 record as a starting pitcher, giving him the most wins in school history. Blake Beagle has been hitting for power and bunting for base hits, and catcher Jackson Caley has been hitting in the upper .300 to lower .400 range.
All of them, Maid said, have been instrumental in bringing life to a program that won just three games five years ago in Maid’s first season. Now they’re getting crowd-lined escorts out of town.
“They have been able to be a big part in the turnaround for us,” Maid said. “They’ve changed our baseball history in a positive way.”