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Hayden goes the gap to steer Pittsburg previous Joplin – Joplin Globe

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Runs were at a premium on a cold, dreary Saturday afternoon at the Joplin High School Athletics Complex.

But Pittsburg junior Cooper Hayden needed very little run support.

On 98 pitches, the right-hander went the distance, trusting his stuff while letting his defense make plays behind him as the Purple Dragons topped Joplin 3-1 on Alumni Day.

“It’s really easy with a good defense,” said Hayden, who fanned five and walked two. “They made a lot of plays behind me. I had to get the ball on the ground and let them make plays. My fastball was pretty good early in counts. My curveball was a good out pitch. I left my split-finger up in the zone a couple of times, but it was pretty good. Everything worked pretty good.”

Hayden was one out shy of a shutout in the bottom of the seventh, but Joplin’s Davis Fiscus reached first base on a fielding error that allowed Bodee Carlson to score to give the Eagles their only run.

On the same play, Isaac Meadows attempted to score but was cut down by first baseman Jackson Turnbull to end the game.

“Coop’s just a kid that is going to go and challenge,” Pittsburg coach Keith Matlock said. “He’s got good good stuff, so trust it. and he does, live in the zone. … Good hitters are going to get themselves out. He really believes in that. He doesn’t like walking guys. He wants to go right at them. He’s a big-time competitor. They’re an aggressive team, and they are looking to get after him early. We got lucky. We had some balls hit right at us. But he went out, got in the zone and competed.”

The Purple Dragons (6-3) struck first in the top of the second when Blaine Dunstan belted a one-out single to left and reached third on a fielding error. Cole Jameson brought him home with a single through the left side.

Pittsburg tacked on its second tally in the third when Braden Benson hit an RBI ground out to plate Tyler Sutton, who had doubled over center field Kyler Stokes’ head to open the frame.

“Those were huge, especially in a tight-scoring game like that,” Hayden said. “It’s big to even get a couple of runs across. It’s a big momentum swing.”

The Purple Dragons added an insurance tally in the fifth when Turnbull singled home Brandon Freeman for a 3-0 advantage.

Hayden and Turnbull accounted for four of Pittsburg’s seven hits.

“Our guys have really been locked in the last couple of weeks,” Matlock said. “They are starting to get a realization of where they are in the order and doing situational things. I’ve been really proud of them. I thought we did a nice job of working into our counts. They are really bought into the situational side of things.”

Despite collecting 11 hits, Joplin (11-5) struggled to get the timely hit, leaving 10 runners aboard in the contest. Fiscus went a perfect 3 for 3 with two doubles, while Alex Curry had a pair of singles. Justin McReynolds took the loss, throwing 5 2/3 innings of three-run ball.

“Pittsburg took advantage of the opportunities that were in front of them,” Joplin coach Kyle Wolf said. “They did a good job of getting the guy on, getting them over and getting them in. We didn’t. At the end of the day, you credit their guy. He pounded the zone, put pressure on us. We didn’t make the adjustments we needed. Quite honestly, I didn’t coach very well. I didn’t get our guys ready to play. Credit to Pittsburg for finding a way to win.”

A significant silver lining for the Eagles was the program honoring its 2001 state championship team before the game.

“It was awesome to see those guys,” Wolf said. “I was looking forward to this day and seeing those guys come out to the park. The guys have a great tradition. That’s a tough group of guys that found a way to get it done in 2001. It was exciting to see them. I’m happy we could have them out here. I wish we would have played a little better.”

Joplin entertains Nixa at 4:30 p.m. Monday in a Central Ozark Conference game. Pittsburg plays host to St. Thomas Aquinas at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

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