The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


July 27, 2013

Miners face Hillcrest in American Legion zone final

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Old rivals Joplin and Hillcrest will settle the Missouri Triple A Zone 3 American Legion baseball title today.

Joplin (35-6) is in the driver’s seat after handllng Hillcrest 15-5 in eight innings on Saturday in the winners’ bracket final.

Hillcrest (17-25) showed its resiliency by recovering to oust Warrensburg 10-0 in eight innings in the losers’ bracket final of the four-team playoffs at the Merchants’ Dick Birmingham Field.

Joplin and Hillcrest square off at noon with another nine-inning contest to follow if necessary.

Hillcrest received a three-hitter from right-hander Kyle Turner and a three-run homer among four runs batted in from Weston Buchanan. Turner struck out one, walked two and required just 83 pitches to eliminate Warrensburg (27-7).

The win by Hillcrest placed it in a zone final for the fourth year in a row.

“It was a battle even though we run-ruled them,” Joplin coach Drew Schulte said of the Miners’ victory. “We expected a ‘dogfight.’ They’ve been winning some games. They came out hungry.”

The Miners rapped six doubles among 15 hits and scored at least one run in seven of the eight innings they batted.

Three Joplin hurlers — left-hander Rex Whisner and right-handers Blake Brown and Colton Johnson — allowed 10 hits. Starter Whisner, hampered by wildness, permitted just two hits in 3 1/3 innings.

The Joplin pitchers were backed by an errorless defense. Third baseman Tristan Ash had one fielding gem for the Miners and second baseman Johnny Maturino had a pair.

“We hit the ball very well,” Schulte said. “Timely hits won this game.”

Ash, who finished with three hits and four RBI, delivered a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning to make it 11-5.

The Miners twice had two-out hits in prematurely ending the game in the eighth inning.

Jones and Hardee each had three hits for the Miners. They combined for five RBI.

Leonardi, who scored four times, and Whisner each had a pair of hits. Brett Graham added a two-run double for the Miners and Maturino had two sacrifice flies.

The Merchants received three hits and two RBI from Deric Link and two hits apiece from Hunter Huett and Zac Randolph. Buchanan drove in two runs.

Schulte said the right-handed Ash, unbeaten this summer, is the probable starting pitcher for the Miners at noon.

Today’s champion advances to state next week at Sedalia.


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