The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

July 22, 2013

Miners preparing for 'extremely good' Blue Springs

Jon Stark, coach of the Double A Joplin Miners American Legion baseball team, didn’t mince words about their opening foe in the five-team, double-elimination state tournament.

The three-day tourney starts Thursday with four games at Joe Becker Stadium in Joplin.

The Miners (18-14) challenge Blue Springs Post 499/Fike (29-16) at noon in the event presented by the Joplin Sports Authority.

Said Stark: “We’re playing an extremely good opponent. But we expected to play a strong team from that area. They came out of a very tough zone.

“We’ve heard excellent things about Blue Springs,” Stark said. “We know they’ve had an excellent program for years. Post 499/Fike, of course, is defending state champion.

“This current Post 499/Fike team is strong up and down the lineup,” Stark.

Post 499/Fike coach Stacy Messner agreed with Stark’s assessment about his team.

“We do everything pretty well,” Messner said. “Maybe we don’t have a super hitting star. But recently the bats have come alive. All of our players contribute.”

Messner said his team was 3-0 in winning Zone 2. It rallied from deficits of 3-1, 8-3 and 12-8 in the first round against Sedalia (winning 13-12 with five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning). Fike then beat Fort Osage 5-4 and 9-2.

Messner, a veterinarian out of Oak Grove and a University of Missouri graduate, is in his first year as coach. He said Steve Workman guided the team the past four years. The 2012 edition finished 2-2 in regional play at Fargo, N.D.

Messner said his assistants include Tony Miller, John Kirwin and former Kansas City Royals shortstop Fred Patek.

“I’m impressed with the job Kirwin has done with these boys. He’s great,” Messner said. “Fred (Patek) has a grandson — Jackson Rico — who will try out for our team next year. Nate Pecota (son of former Royal Bill Pecota) is injured and won’t play in the tournament.”

Messner did slip in the name of one Fike player — shortstop Zack Ehlen.

“He’s extremely fast, leads off and had a three-run, inside-the-park home run (during the zone),” Messner said.

Joplin, seeded fourth, finished runner-up to the Lamar Southwest Tigers in District 15 at Monett.

“Our players have made strides this season,” Stark said. “They’ve learned. I’m satisfied with the way they’ve played. Overall, we’ve done well.”

Stark, who’s assisted by Ryan Zengel, said the probable lineup will have second baseman Corey Ball leading off.

Third baseman Austin Zengel, first baseman Matt Wells and right-handed pitcher Tyler McGrew will hit second through fourth, Stark said.

Completing the likely order will be right fielder Dylan Barnhart, center fielder Blake Fisher, left fielder Dillon Johnson, catcher Paul Hilbert and shortstop Gavin Merriman.

Rounding out the Joplin roster are outfielder Ace Pearson,. left-handed pitcher-outfielder Cole Allen, catcher Harrison Davis and right-handed hurler Daulton Barnhart.

The 2:30 p.m. game on Thursday is Springfield Glendale vs. Washington Post 218. Ste. Genevieve Post 150 will play the Joplin-Post 499/Fike winner at 5. The first losers’ bracket game is set for 7:30.

Admission prices are $4 for adults and $2 for students. There is no charge for children 12 and under.

The champion advances to Carthage next week for the eight-team Midwest Regional at Carl Lewton Stadium.

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