OVERLAND PARK — The season for Pittsburg baseball came to an end in the Kansas Class 5A Regional Championship after the Purple Dragons fell 4-1 to Mill Valley Thursday.
Pittsburg took a 1-0 lead on a run in the third inning, but the Jaguars plated three runs in the fifth inning and added an insurance run in the sixth to clinch a berth to the state tournament.
Pittsburg closes the season with a 13-8 record.
“Overall, I thought it was a good season. The team definitely got better and that showed tonight as we competed with two very good teams,” Pittsburg head coach Keith Matlock said. “This team has faced a lot of adversity, and I can’t be more proud of how they responded. I am very excited for next year, as we are returning the core of our team.”
Connor Spresser is the lone Purple Dragon graduating from this year’s team.
“My heart hurts for Connor. It’s definitely not the way you want to end your career,” Matlock said. “He did it right all four years he was with the program, and we appreciate that. He’s a young man who will be successful in whatever he chooses to do.”
A leadoff walk from Mill Valley’s Cole Messer was followed by Tanner Reed reaching base on a fielder’s choice to start the fifth inning for the Jaguars. A pair of hits — the last of which was a double by A.J. Knight — scored three runs to give Mill Valley the late lead.
The Purple Dragons got a two-out baserunner in the bottom of the seventh, but nothing came of it as the Jaguars ended the game with a ground out.
Noah Vaughn got the start for the Purple Dragons and pitched four innings and gave up three runs on seven hits, one walk and three strikeouts.
Dylan White pitched two innings in relief and allowed one run on one hit with a strikeout.
Tallying hits for the Purple Dragons were Elijah Harris, Jake Webb, Trent Austin, Jerek Butcher and Wes Jameson.
Harris scored the lone run for Pittsburg.
A line drive from Noah Vaughn in the bottom of the seventh inning ended the Blue Valley Southwest Timberwolves’ 5A reign and sent the Purple Dragons to the Kansas Class 5A Regional Final.
The third-seeded Purple Dragons erased an early three-run deficit to go on to win 4-3 over the defending 5A state champions in the regional semifinal. A single from Vaughn with Elijah Harris on second base gave the Purple Dragons the winning run needed in the last of the seventh inning to end the game and cap an unprecedented 4-3 comeback win.
“It was a big win,” said Matlock said in an interview with Aaron Amershek of KSEK 1340 AM. “We talked about this earlier in the day about our schedule and being in this situation a bunch this season. We came back to the dugout and guys said what they were seeing and we were able to see what they were doing and make adjustments.”
Tye Cicero went 1 for 3 at the dish, while Wes Jameson went 1 for 3.
Zach Petty was the losing pitcher for the Timberwolves, while Jake Webb started the game for the Purple Dragons before Vaughn took over in the sixth inning and finished up.
“I thought Jake did a great job of keeping us in the game,” Matlock said. “It was a tough start but he matured. Noah came in and did a fantastic job.”
Despite getting into an early hole, the Purple Dragons’ baserunning kept them alive.
“We felt going into this year that speed would be a big part of this season. We’re going to make some outs but if we’re aggressive, we’ll be OK. It worked out for us today,” said Matlock.
An RBI single from Chris Esposito extended the Timberwolves’ lead, bringing home a run to give Blue Valley Southwest a 3-0 lead after two innings of play.
Zach Sutton scored Pittsburg’s first run in the fourth inning on a wild pitch to cut the lead to 3-1.
Pittsburg put runners on corners in the fifth inning, with Cicero charging home for a Pittsburg run on a pass ball to cut the lead to one.
Pittsburg’s Trent Austin singled to shallow left with a runner in scoring position to tie the game up at 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Harris reached first in the bottom of the seventh inning, and moved to second after a single.
Vaughn stepped up to the plate with two outs and a line-drive single enabled Harris to score the winning run.