Monday night's doubleheader between the Pittsburg Junior Legion and the Arma Senior Babe Ruth presented a case study in diametrical opposition at the Arma Baseball Field.
The largest city in Crawford County with two high schools (Pittsburg, St. Mary's Colgan) against the town with the smallest high school in the county (Northeast) — although Arma contributed Carnie Smith, John Levra, Harry McDonald and Andrew Bertuzzi to Pittsburg's sports heritage.
Pittsburg featured predominantly JV and freshmen players from last season looking to build experience over the summer and Arma played mostly Northeast varsity players of the last two and three seasons, as well as Pittsburg State redshirt and Northeast alum Chase Cleland and Liberal (Mo.) pitcher Trevor Harvey.
In the opener, Pittsburg right fielder Ryan McNeely threw out the potential go-ahead run at the plate in the fourth and was at the plate in the seventh when the game-winning run scored en route to a 9-2 win over the Arma Bulldogs.
Nate Brown started out the seven-run seventh by reaching on a hit-by-pitch. Aaron Twarog and Dante Richardson reached on consecutive bunt singles, as the Arma infield began its discombobulation on any grounder, and loaded the bases.
“John (Clark) and I talked the inning before,” Pittsburg head coach Keith Matlock said. “The inning before that, we had 11 hits and two runs and just hadn’t executed real well and made some mistakes on the basepaths. I told Aaron that it was going to be a sac bunt but he could try to do it for a hit the first one. He did a great job and set us up for a big inning. We did a very good job of executing that inning and when we do it, we’re pretty good and we can push runs across. Those two (bunts) definitely set us up for a big inning.”
Twarog placed his bunt up the third base line and Arma third baseman Joey McDowell was in no man's land. Richardson placed a similar bunt on the right side and by the time pitcher Garrett Miller fielded and turned to throw, Richardson was safely on first.
Brown scored the winning run on a failed McNeely bunt and subsequent passed ball by Cleland.
Pittsburg scored its seven in a variety of ways, culminated by a James Clark RBI sacrifice fly and Brown RBI double.
Arma took a 2-0 lead in the first on a Cleland two-run homer to right. The Bulldogs (old high school name before Northeast 246) only managed four more hits after the first against Pittsburg starter Kyle Smith, who tossed a complete game six-hitter.
“He settled down and we made a couple good plays behind him,” Matlock said. “We also had a couple errors behind him but he pitched through them. He did a very good job. We played Friday, we played Sunday and today, we were kind of short on pitching. He came out and gave us a big game on the mound. It set us up pretty good for the evening.”
Page 2 of 2 - Pittsburg continued its momentum in the second game. Clark led off with a single and Pittsburg plated two in the first on a Richardson bases-loaded walk and a Twarog RBI single. Kaleb Hamilton, in his first at-bat of the twinbill, also picked up a single.
Arma pieced together consecutive singles in the second by Harvey and Jacob "Bear" Bryant. A wild pitch moved Bryant to second and Harvey to third and with two outs, Drake Courtney drilled a RBI single to right, plating Harvey for a 2-1 deficit.
The two-out RBI hits continued — Eli Short a RBI single, J.T. Richardson a two-run double into the right field gap and Noah Popejoy a two-run double in a similar place as Richardson.
Arma ended the second with a 6-2 advantage in one fell swoop.
Connor Spresser cut the Arma lead in half with a RBI single but was thrown out at second as pitcher Cleland cut the throw off at the mound and threw a strike to get Spresser for the last out.
Pittsburg threatened in the fourth but McNeely was caught and tagged out in a rundown between third and home. Cleland again cut off a throw and Arma executed the rundown, ending what had looked like a promising inning for Pittsburg.
During its half of the fourth, Arma capitalized on a fielding error with a Cleland RBI sacrifice fly and 7-3 lead.
Arma held on for a 7-3 win and doubleheader split.
Pittsburg completed a span of six games in four days with only Saturday empty on the schedule.
“The kids love it,” Matlock said. “We didn’t get to play a whole lot early because we had some cancellations. We’re starting to swing it well right now. Heck, even that second game, I felt we were unlucky. We hit balls hard . . . they’re getting to play through some of those things.”
Pittsburg Junior Legion 9, Arma Senior Babe Ruth 2
PITT 020 000 7 — 9 13 1
ARMA 200 000 0 — 2 6 4
Kyle Smith and Josh Jarvis. Trevor Harvey, Garrett Miller (7), Joey McDowell (7) and Chase Cleland. WP: Smith. LP: Harvey. E: Dante Richardson; Nick Younge, Joey McDowell, J.T. Richardson, Dennis Hensley. HR: Cleland. SB: Smith; Miller 2, Eli Short. CS: D. Richardson, Connor Spresser, Aaron Twarog; Miller. A: Ryan McNeely. HBP: Nate Brown. LOB: PITT 9, ARMA 5.
Arma 7, Pittsburg 3
PITT 201 00 — 3 6 1
ARMA 060 1X — 7 8 2
Connor Spresser and Aaron Twarog. Chase Cleland and Noah Popejoy. WP: Cleland. LP: Spresser. E: James Clark; Eli Short, Trevor Harvey. 2B: J.T. Richardson, Popejoy. SF: Kyle Smith; Cleland. SH: Short. SB: Clark, Twarog; Richardson. HBP: Dante Richardson. LOB: PITT 5, ARMA 4.