The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

July 28, 2013

Joplin Miners sweep to zone championship

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Joplin Miners, doing damage early and late, beat Hillcrest 14-8 on Sunday for a three-game sweep in the Missouri American Legion Triple A Zone 3 Tournament

The Miners, coached by Drew Schulte and Bobby Stackhouse, will take a 36-6 record to Sedalia for the four-team, double-elimination state finals starting Thursday.

Joplin faces Blue Springs Rod’s A’s at 4 p.m. The second contest is Eureka vs. Jefferson City.

Joplin, which beat Hillcrest 15-5 in eight innings on Saturday in the winners’ bracket finals, rapped 16 hits on Sunday with a six-run top of the eighth inning erasing an 8-7 deficit against the Merchants at their Dick Birmingham Field.

Hillcrest (17-26) had rallied from a 6-1 deficit by scoring six runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Said Schulte: “We had several errors (3) in that six-run inning. But we fought well.

“These nine-inning games are long,” Schulte, stressing long, said. “It’s how you finish and we finished strong.”

Said Hillcrest Ryan Schaffitzel: “They (the Miners) outlasted us. Collin Irvine (the Merchants’ second of four relievers) was our last guy who hadn’t thrown this week. Our kids competed.”

Said Schulte: “Hillcrest was dangerous. They were the host. They had some good players.”

Rex Whisner and Josh Miller drew walks to open the Joplin eighth inning. Miller was forced out by Colton Johnson but Whisner moved to third on the play and promptly scored on a balk to tie it at 8.

Tyson Hardee dropped a double inside the right field line to score Johnson to snap the tie. Chris Leonardi walked before the second out to increase the pressure on Joplin batters.

The Miners responded after an intentional pass to Brett Graham.

Gavin Jones singled home two runs. Jones then swiped second and followed Graham across the plate on Tristan Ash’s single to cap the scoring flurry.

The Miners, who left 19 runners, received three hits and two RBI from Leonardi, three RBI from Graham, two hits and three RBI from Jones, three hits from Hardee and Johnson, and two hits from Ash.

Hillcrest had 11 hits with Hunter Huett getting three and Irvine and Adam Barton each adding two. Irvine also had two RBI.

The right-handed Graham, working 5 1/3 innings in relief, picked up the win. He was reached for six hits but the only run he allowed was unearned. He struck out four.

“Graham pitched a heck of a game,” Schulte said. ‘He’s a competitor.

“The level of commitment of our players has been excellent.” Schulte said. “They were here every day. They sacrificed their summers. Now, they’re going to state.”

The game started in a slight rain. But most of the game was just played under overcast skies.

Schulte didn’t seem to expect the traditional bucket of ice water after the game. He was soaked from top to bottom.

Stackhouse missed the dousing. But his good fortune was no surprise considering how his Braves handled the Cardinals this weekend.

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