took an early lead and withstood a late rally in the Class 4 District 7 championship baseball game, beating by a 7-5 margin Wednesday at .
Backed by timely hitting and a servicable start from sophomore pitcher Joe Hope, Parkway North brought home its first district championship since 2003. The fourth-seeded Vikings dispatched No. 5 4-3 in the first round and No. 1 CBC 11-6 in the semifinals prior to Wednesday's win over the No. 2 Knights.
Parkway North coach Fred Friedman said his team hadn't spoken about the game that ended its 2011 season, a 19-1 district loss to De Smet. But once the Vikings recorded the final out against Francis Howell North, Friedman finally felt comfortable referencing that bitter loss and proclaiming how far they've come since then.
“It was humbling,” Friedman said. “It also put a sour taste in our mouths to just come back and compete.”
Junior DH Justin Campbell helped provide the offensive punch early by doubling in his first two at-bats and driving in three runs. Senior Evan Block belted a first-pitch home run to begin the second inning, and a sacrifice fly by junior Jon Shanker gave Parkway North a 5-0 lead through three innings.
Francis Howell North, after stranding the bases loaded in the second inning, broke through against Hope in the third with a run-scoring bloop double by Tyler Ehlmann. Parkway North senior Connor Faron returned the favor in the top of the fourth, scoring on a fielder's choice.
FHN got another bases-loaded opportunity in its half of the fourth and this time cashed in with a pair of runs to cut Parkway North's lead to 6-3. The Knights did further damage in the sixth when Bryan Ryberg took a Hope offering deep to center field for a two-run home run. It was his first homer of the season and made it a one-run game.
“It happens against good hitters,” Hope said of Ryberg's round-tripper. “I came right back and got the next out and that's all that matters.”
Parkway North scored once more in the seventh before Hope capped off his complete-game performance by retiring the side in order in the seventh, ending the game and clinching the district championship.
“Just an amazing, great team win,” Hope said. “All the nerves went away in the first inning, and the team hung in there and kept me up.”
Parkway North improved to 19-9 on the season and advances to the Class 4 sectional round, where it will face Fort Zumwalt South, a 5-3 winner over Francis Howell in Wednesday's District 8 championship, on Tuesday.
“You have to give Parkway North their due because they made the plays to win,” Knights coach Bob Dunahue said. “Did we lose the game or did they win the game? I'd say it was a combination of both. However, they made plays against us and we failed to make plays against them. And that's pretty much the game of baseball.”