The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


July 31, 2013

Miners face tough task at Legion tourney

The Joplin Miners face a rugged assignment — the Blue Springs Rods Sports A’s — as the Missouri Triple A American Legion baseball finals start today in Sedalia.

Such a test is expected, Joplin coach Drew Schulte said Wednesday.

“The bottom line is that four of the best teams in the state will be in this tournament,” Schulte said.

“We realize Blue Springs has some good hitters,” Schulte said. “So do we. It’s about adjusting early and how you play the game.

“I believe we have — perhaps led by our infield — one of the best defenses in the area,” Schulte said. “Throw strikes and we have a chance.”

Today’s schedule in the four-team, double-elimination tourney at Liberty Park is Joplin (36-6) vs. the A’s (43-7) at 4 p.m. and Jefferson City Post 5 (39-5) vs. Eureka O’Brien Post 177 (35-12) at 7.

Three games will be held on Friday. Today’s winners clash at noon — the games are scheduled for nine innings — and today’s losers tangle at 3 p.m. The losers’ final is set for 6 p.m.

The championship round starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday. A second contest, if necessary, will follow.

Blue Springs Rods coach Mike Rooney took the reins in 1991 and has guided nine teams to the state finals with five champions. This summer’s team won Zone 2 by sweeping three games at its Hidden Valley Park. Joplin swept Zone 3 at Springfield Hillcrest.

Rooney said the A’s have 10 seniors with eight to play in college. He said the probable starting pitcher against Joplin, 6-foot-6 right-hander Blake Corwin, will attend Crowder College of Neosho.

“It’s helped us to have seniors for leadership as well as because of their playing ability,” Rooney said. “They’ve played four years at Blue Springs High School. Why not play in the summer for a fourth year.”

Rooney said the program has had 11 players drafted during his reign and two players currently are in the major leagues.

“We’re a nice hitting team with seven players averaging more than .400,” Rooney said. “We catch the ball and we have nice pitching.”

Leading hitters include speedy center fielder Wylson Lamb (.445, 38 stolen bases). Lamb, who quarterbacked Blue Springs to the Class 6 state title last fall, is headed for Brigham Young to play baseball after two years as a missionary.

Rooney is calling the A’s coaching staff the “Geritol Crew.”

“I’m 67. But I’m not the oldest,” Rooney said with a laugh. “That’s Clyde Kubli. He’s 76 and recently was named to the (Independence) Truman High School Hall of Fame. Brad Mayfield, Tom Bush and Jack Gillis also coach.”

Schulte said right-hander Tyler Fancher is the probable starting pitcher for the Miners.

The probable batting order is shortstop Chris Leonardi, second baseman Johnny Maturino, first baseman Brett Graham, center fielder Gavin Jones, third baseman Tristan Ash, left fielder Rex Whisner, designated hitter Colton Johnson, right fielder Blake Brown and catcher Tyson Hardee.

Schulte, who’s assisted by Bobby Stackhouse and Jon Stark, said Josh Miller, Gavin Williamson, Dylan Barnhart and Tyler McGrew will complete the roster.

State notes: Jefferson City, a three-time state champion, ousted defending champion Washington Post 218 in the finals of Zone 1 at Moberly. Washington forced a second game after losing to Post 5 in the winners’ final. ... Jefferson City, coached by Drury graduate Dane Hughes, draws players from Blair Oaks and Class 3 prep titlist Fatima as well as Helias and Jefferson City High. Post 5 general manager Billy Cannon said 14 of its 16 players will play in college. ... Eureka, 3-0 in Zone 4, beat Jackson on its field to advance. Post 177 coach Robert Huckstep said he has players from Rockwood Summit and St. Louis U. High as well as Eureka. “We’ll have to rebuild next summer with 10 of our players college signees,” Huckstep said. Eureka has won state A title in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Post 177 lost to Jefferson City in the Washington Tournament. Huckstep, a third baseman for Maryville U., St. Louis, said Post 177 is in varsity finals for the first time.

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