PITTSBURG — Early run support for the Pittsburg High School offense helped propel the Purple Dragons to a pair of Southeast Kansas League wins, 11-1 and 6-3, over Labette County Tuesday at Jaycee Ballpark to wrap up the regular season.
The Dragon offense scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth to gain the early edge in the contest. With Noah Vaughn on the mound, PHS cruised to a 10-run victory in six innings. The Grizzlies scored a run in the top of the first inning of the second game, but Pittsburg continued to swing well with three runs crossing the plate in its at-bat in the inning. PHS continued to play ahead with insurance runs in the third, fourth and on the way to the sweep.
“I thought after last Thursday not playing very well, and not doing some things right last weekend, we came back tonight and responded very well," Pittsburg head coach Keith Matlock said. "It was a different energy in the ballpark, and, overall, I thought we played very well."
Pittsburg brings its record to 12-7, 8-4 in the SEK with a third-place standing.
"We'll find out tomorrow where we go and who we play," Matlock said. "I think we've played a really good schedule all year long. This is what you build to. You try to make sure you are playing well at the end of the season, and hopefully these two wins will give us some confidence towards that."
Vaughn was sharp on the bump for the Purple Dragons in the opener. He pitched a complete game for the win, giving up one run in six innings on three hits, no walks with six strikeouts.
“With Noah, you know what you're going to get," Matlock said. "He came out and hit his spots, mixed it up and did a good job. He goes out and competes every night — goes right at the hitters. He just understands how to pitch really well, and he's been fantastic all year long."
Pittsburg plated its first run of the game on an RBI single from Jake Webb through the left side of the infield.
PHS did damage with two outs later in the inning when Trent Austin picked up an RBI on a single through the left side of the infield to make the score 2-0.
Jerek Butcher lined a ball to center field in the next at-bat to score a pair of runs to put Pittsburg on top with a 4-0 advantage.
The Purple Dragons had productive days at the plate from Austin and Butcher — both freshmen — near the bottom of the order, contributing to much of the success the offense had on the day.
“They had some very big at-bats tonight and I can't be more proud of them," Matlock said. "Trent has been playing pretty well for us the last few games. Unfortunately, Connor Spresser got hurt today and couldn't go, so Jerek got thrown in there and he made the most of it. The future is going to be very bright for those two."
The Purple Dragons stretched their lead to eight runs in the bottom of the fifth thanks in large part to an RBI single from Webb as well as a two-run single to left from Butcher.
With Vaughn continuing his dominance on the mound to stifle the Grizzlies’ offense, PHS ended the game in the six with three runs crossing the plate.
Elijah Harris had a pair of hits, scored three times and had four stolen bases in the win for the Dragons.
Webb had a pair of hits and three RBIs.
Austin and Butcher each went 2 for 3, with Austin scoring twice and driving in one and Butcher leading the team in RBIs with four.
While the first game of the twinbill went smoothly for Pittsburg, the Grizzlies battled with the Dragons in the second game. However, with each run Labette County put on the scoreboard, PHS answered in the bottom half of the inning — and key reason Pittsburg earned the sweep.
“We talked about in the first game how we scored four in the first and then hang zeros for four innings before we put up some more. We talked about how we need to be putting runs up every inning," Matlock said. "They did a good job in that second game of adjusting and answer any time Labette County scored."
With the score tied an 1-1 in the bottom of the first, Austin singled to bring in Vaughn — who slid into home plate and knocked the ball loose from the glove of the LCHS catcher to score the go-ahead run.
Butcher ripped a double to left-center field over the head of the left fielder to score another run to give PHS a 3-1 lead.
After the Grizzlies cut into the Dragon lead with a run in the top of the third on a PHS throwing error, Austin delivered with another run-scoring hit in the bottom half of the inning — hitting the ball up the middle to plate a pair of runs to make the score 5-2.
Vaughn brought in another run in the bottom of the fifth when an infield single in the hole between shortstop and third base allowed ... to score, doubling up the lead to 6-3.
Chase Curtis, who came in as relief for starter Jake Webb, kept the Grizzlies off the scoreboard for the remainder of the contest to lead PHS to the sweep.
Vaughn had a pair of hits and two runs scored, while Austin led Pittsburg with three RBIs on two hits in the game-two win.
It was senior night at the ballpark for Pittsburg sports, with Connor Spresser getting recognized for the PHS baseball team. The parents of Derek Brumbaugh — a PHS senior on the baseball team who passed away earlier this year — were presented with a jersey as well as a warm reception from the crowd at home plate.
Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @LDsportswriter.