A second straight rough start at the Missouri baseball tournament led to a second straight mercy-rule loss for the Pleasant Hill baseball team.
One day after permitting four runs in the first inning of their sectional loss, the Roosters allowed five runs in the first inning and nine more in the second, as Westminster Christian Academy earned a 19-4 victory in the Class 4 third-place game Friday at CarShield Field.
Still, Pleasant Hill (18-11) advanced deeper into the postseason than any other team in the program’s history.
“I’m not disappointed at all,” Roosters coach Scott Maid said. “Of course, you come into this and you want to get two wins and get that state championship trophy, but we won on so many different levels. We might not have that first-place state trophy, but it’s been a lot of fun this year. What a great thing for our program, our school and our community.”
Pleasant Hill did manage eight hits off three different Westminster pitchers, including two apiece from junior catcher Jackson Caley and freshman third baseman Jackson Barnes.
“I couldn’t say more positive things about what we’ve done this year,” Caley said. “We’ve woken up baseball in our hometown. It was a magical season full of great runs. I’m sad it’s over, but I’m super proud of what we’ve done.”
Westminster (33-2) was the odds-on favorite to win its fifth state title this week. But a 2-1 loss to conference rival Lutheran South in Thursday’s semifinal left many wondering if the Wildcats would be motivated for a third-place game none of them had envisioned playing in when the state tournament started.
But any questions on that subject were quickly answered, as the Wildcats rapped 17 hits in the game and batted around in the first, second and fourth innings.
Logan Sells and Kevin Graham, the top two batters in the Westminster lineup, each went 4 for 5. Sells scored three runs, while Graham crossed the plate four times and drove in three more runs to send retiring Westminster coach Rich Van Gilst off with one last win.
“It was obviously a tough loss (yesterday) because we wanted to get in the championship game today, but for the seniors and especially VG in his last year, we just wanted to get a win,” said Graham, a junior third baseman who is verbally committed to Ole Miss.
After Westminster scored five runs on five hits in the top of the first inning, Pleasant Hill responded with a pair of runs in the home half of the first, as one run scored on an error and another scored on a double by Barnes.
Any momentum the Roosters may have culled from that rally was quickly squashed though by the Wildcats’ nine-run second inning that blew the game open at 14-2.
Pleasant Hill struck for two more runs in the third on an RBI triple by Jordan Smith and a run-scoring single by Barnes.
“We got down a lot of runs, and a lot of teams would just roll over and die, but I’m just proud of my team for still trying to put runs on the board,” said Caley, who scored two of the Roosters’ four runs.
Westminster scored five more times in the fourth to help bring the game to a close after just five innings.
When it was all over, many of the Roosters stayed around as long as they could, soaking up as much of the state atmosphere as they could.
“Now that we’ve been here, we know that we can do it,” Caley said. “This experience has given us all a taste of what it is, and I think that it’s gonna be a good taste and we’re gonna want it again. It was all one big blur of fun. Not only baseball fun, but we just had a bunch of fun down here.”