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  • Peaking at the right time

  • Pittsburg seniors Joe Wimmer and Broc Bennett have developed into a solid 1-2 pitching tandem and they displayed their acumen on the mound during a Tuesday night doubleheader with Labette County at JayCee Ballpark.

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  • Pittsburg seniors Joe Wimmer and Broc Bennett have developed into a solid 1-2 pitching tandem and they displayed their acumen on the mound during a Tuesday night doubleheader with Labette County at JayCee Ballpark.
    Wimmer allowed two runs on five hits in seven innings of the first game and Bennett allowed no runs on five hits in five innings of the second game. Pittsburg swept Labette County 5-2 and 10-0.
    “It’s a great place to start,” Pittsburg head coach Mike Wilbert said. “It always starts with pitching when you’re talking about baseball games and when you have guys that only give up a couple runs and throw shutouts, that gives you a chance to win every time. Broc and Joe are a good 1-2 punch. I thought Joe threw really well and Broc comes in and throws a shutout.”
    In the opener, Labette County started out strong with a leadoff double by right fielder Tyler Cares. Cares would later score on a single by starting pitcher Klay Weaver. The Grizzlies scored their second run in the third on a double by center fielder Hunter Seibert and RBI single by left fielder Cole Traxson, one Labette County senior driving in another Labette County senior.
    Pittsburg first baseman Tanner Ellis singled off Weaver in the bottom of the third for the first hit of the game and Pittsburg did not have a hit again until an Ellis single in the fifth. By the way, Ellis went 3-for-4 in the first game.
    Weaver hit Bennett with a pitch to begin the fifth and Todd Keller sacrificed Bennett into scoring position. Weaver nearly picked off Bennett at second and brought in Dante Richardson to run. Richardson did not score on the Ellis single but would come around for the first Pittsburg run on a single by Wimmer, again supporting himself with his bat.
    Pittsburg saved its best for the sixth inning, scoring another late-inning come-from-behind rally at JayCee Ballpark.
    Dylan Gromer started the surge with a single and he stole a base on Weaver, a good move since Anthony McNeely drove in the savvy PHS catcher with a single. McNeely would score on a Labette County fielding error for a 3-2 PHS lead and Jornell Fondren, running for Keller, not only stole second, he scored on a costly Labette County throwing error. Nick Vacca singled home another run and Pittsburg retired Labette County 1-2-3 in the seventh.
    “The kids fought back and we put some hits together in the sixth inning,” Wilbert said. “We finally put the ball on the nose a little bit, scored some runs and got some big things happen for us. That was a big relief off of our minds and everything. Key hits, good pitching, good defense.”
    Pittsburg started out with a bang in the second game — scoring four runs on four hits and two Labette errors in the first. No. 2 hitter Spencer Bernhardt singled and Bernhardt scored on a Vacca single after advancing to second on an error. Brandon Baker doubled home Vacca and Baker later scored on a Labette County error. McNeely scored the fourth run on a Bennett single.
    Page 2 of 3 - The Purple Dragons scored five more runs in the second and third innings to gain a commanding 9-0 lead — highlighted by Vacca’s three-run double in the third. Wimmer started out the bottom of the fifth with a single and he stole second. Senior pinch hitter Zach Baden came in for Bernhardt and singled in no man’s land between shortstop and left field. Vacca drove in his fifth run of the game on a walk-off RBI single.
    “It was big for us to only go five innings, truthfully, because that saves a little bit of our pitching,” Wilbert said. “We’ve got to go to Columbus on Thursday and it saves a couple innings for Broc. It helps us that way.”
    Speaking of Bennett, his five-inning shutout included 11 strikeouts — he struck out one in the first, three in the second, two in the third, three in the fourth and two in the fifth. The first out and the final out came on strikeouts.
    Pittsburg improves to 11-5 overall and 10-4 in the Southeast Kansas League, holding serve in a tight race for the league title. Independence and Iola, teams also with four SEK losses entering Tuesday night, had doubleheaders respectively scheduled against Parsons and Fort Scott. Scores were unfortunately not available at time of press.
    “We may not have played very well early but we’ve played well in April and May,” Wilbert said. “I’m proud of these kids. They really have gotten better and that’s what it’s all about. Baseball is such a funny game. You can hit the ball on the nose all night long and sometimes it just doesn’t go your way and it’s over. It’s over but you have to keep battling and they’ve battled hard to put us in a position to see if we can win a ballgame or two down there.”
    Pittsburg closes out its regular season against Columbus on Thursday, a SEK League doubleheader postponed and rescheduled from April.
    “Columbus beat us twice last year and we ended up sharing the league title with them,” Wilbert said. “We know Columbus is a very worthy opponent, I don’t care what their record is, they’re going to be tough. We’re happy to be in the position that we’re in and we don’t want to lose our focus. Our focus is to compete well on Thursday and then compete well in this 4A regional because we feel like we’ve got a chance.”
    Big hits from all parts of the Pittsburg lineup Tuesday night pleased Wilbert.
    “We quit popping the ball up and started getting on top of the ball and hitting some linedrives,” Wilbert said. “That coupled with a walk here or there and we were able to put some runs on the board.
    Page 3 of 3 - “Labette’s a nice club and we knew it was going to be tough. We could face them next week and shoot, we’ll have our hands full. We’ll have our hands full with whoever we play from now on out. We’re a ballclub that’s not going to win every game 10-0, 15-0. This is the first ballgame we’ve had in a while that we’ve been up and had a little breathing room.”
    Pittsburg softball
    On the softball diamond at Cheryl Stice Field, the Grizzlies of Labette County demonstrated why they had an 18-0 overall record and 14-0 mark in the Southeast Kansas League entering Tuesday night.
    Labette County swept Pittsburg 12-0 and 9-0 to complete an undefeated regular season and senior pitcher Allie Reynolds no-hit Pittsburg in the second contest and only surrendered back-to-back hits by Andie Casper and Mercedes Vogel in the first game.
    “They’re a solid team, loaded with seniors,” Pittsburg head coach Mary Packard said. “Their pitcher is very good. She’s been pitching for all four years and she’s pitched both ends of a doubleheader as long as I can remember. They’ll be the No. 1 seed in our regional which starts Monday.”
    Pittsburg ends its regular season 8-12 overall and 6-10 in the SEK. Pittsburg doubled its win total from last season.
    Game One
    Pittsburg baseball 5, Labette County 2
    LCHS 101 000 0 — 2 5 3
    PHS 000 014 X — 5 7 0
    Klay Weaver, Austin Ryan (6), Joey Reeves (6) and Corey Cosby. Joe Wimmer and Dylan Gromer. WP: Wimmer. LP: Weaver. 2B: Tyler Cares, Hunter Seibert. SB: Jornell Fondren, Gromer, Anthony McNeely. CS: Seibert. SH: Cosby; Todd Keller. SF: Spencer Bernhardt. LOB: LCHS 4, PHS 8.
    Game Two
    Pittsburg 10, Labette County 0 (5 innings; game ended with no outs)
    LCHS 000 00 — 0 5 3
    PHS 423 01 — 10 13 0
    Tyler Burris, Blake Palmer (3) and Corey Cosby. Broc Bennett and Dylan Gromer. WP: Bennett. LP: Burris. 2B: Brandon Baker, Nick Vacca. SB: Joe Wimmer. SH: Spencer Bernhardt, Todd Keller. SF: Vacca. LOB: LCHS 5, PHS 8.
    Game One
    Labette County softball 12, Pittsburg 0
    Game Two
    Labette County 9, Pittsburg 0

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