GUILFORD, Mo. — Fans in Guilford on Thursday night were treated to a pair of top district seeds battling it out in a matchup which could decide a state quarterfinalist in a couple weeks.
The No. 1 seed in Class 1 District 15 North Harrison (14-1) topped Class 1 District 16's top seed Platte Valley (11-4) 3-2 on Thursday night in Guilford. Fortunately for Platte Valley, this game didn't have the implications that a potential rematch would with both teams locked into playoff seeding.
“You always want to play better games towards the end of the year against better competition because it is going to help you in districts,” Platte Valley coach Zach Dyer said. “This was a good non-conference game to have scheduled against a very good team. They are well coached and very solid defensively.”
For North Harrison, it was only their fourth game all season decided by less than five runs. It was Platte Valley's third 1-run contest this season.
Both pitchers — Platte Valley sophomore Wyatt Miller and North Harrison junior Matthew Heintz — found their rhythms early and had hitters guessing as the teams combined for just five hits. Miller thanked senior Trever McQueen for providing a scouting report on the Shamrocks.
“Outside pitches,” Miller said of what was working for him. “Trever McQueen scouted them earlier and saw that they were pulling everything. So I just aimed for the outside of the zone.”
North Harrison got runners on second and third with one out in the third inning, but Miller was able to strikeout Shamrock standout Brett Emig on three pitches then draw a groundout from clean-up hitter Brandon Hamilton.
Heintz and Miller traded 1-2-3 innings before Platte Valley sophomore Memphis Bliley led off the bottom of the fourth with a single up the middle. Brandon McQueen drew a walk to put two on with one out for Alex Mattson.
The freshman shortstop drove a ball right at Shamrock second baseman Wade Briggs. The ball tied up Briggs and got by him into right field and scored both Bliley and McQueen.
Just as an error helped Platte Valley in the fourth, a pair of them hurt Miller in the top of the fifth. The inning started with No. 8 hitter Cruz Ury grounding it to third, but reaching on an error.
Miller drew a soft grounder to Mattson at short, but the freshman threw over-hand to second baseman Matt Jermain in a rush to turn two. The ball sailed and went off the tip of Jermain's glove.
“Good teams take advantage of mistakes and we had a couple today,” Dyer said. “It is not the end of the world, but we have districts coming up here soon.”
Briggs, the team's leadoff hitter, atoned for his error with a single to load the bases.
A wild pitch allowed the first run to score as all the runners moved up. North Harrison's Grant Claycomb drove in the tying run with a groundout and Emig plated the go-ahead run with a flyout to left field.
From there, Heintz handled the rest. The bottom of the fifth opened with Carter Luke reaching on an error, but Lane Acklin lined out to shortstop and Luke, who was running on contact, was doubled off first.
Heintz did not allow another base runner as he and Trever McQueen traded outs for the last two frames.
“They are a good team,” Miller said. “If we win districts, we will definitely see them again. We just have to pick up on errors and win this next time.”
Heintz threw a complete game and allowed just two hits with no earned runs. Miller pitched five innings and allowed two hits and one walk while striking out four.
“He has been pitching really well for us,” Dyer said. “The big thing for him is that he has just been consistently throwing strikes and getting a lot of movement on his pitches, so he is keeping the batters on their toes.”
Miller's success has only deepened a staff that already had two of the best in the area with Bliley and Trever McQueen.
“We knew he was going to be one of our top three or four pitchers coming into the season, but he has really come into his own lately,” Dyer said. “You can argue that he has put himself in that top level for our starters.”
Trever McQueen pitched the final two innings for Platte Valley. The senior allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out three.
Platte Valley will face road trips to DeKalb (1-13) on Friday and Pattonsburg (9-1) on Monday. They will face the winner of St. Joseph Christian and North Nodaway in their district opener on Monday, May 17, in Guilford.