Senior Legion splits with Pittsburg

Iola's Senior American Legion squad extended its winning streak to 11 Tuesday, but an early deficit in Game 2 of the doubleheader proved too much to overcome in a loss to rival Pittsburg.

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July 3, 2024 - 2:02 PM

Trey Sommer connects on a key sixth-inning single Tuesday against Pittsburg in a 5-4 victory. Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register

A hard-fought split featuring Kansas’s  two-time defending state champions in both American Legion AA and AAA levels saw Iola’s winning streak come to an end Tuesday.

Iola won a 5-4 nailbiter in Game 1 of their doubleheader against the Pittsburg Patriots, scoring the tie-breaker on Brandon McKarnin’s RBI single in the bottom of the sixth.

But Pittsburg, which plays in the AAA level, bounced back in Game 2, fending off Iola’s late challenge to win, 4-2.

The teams have developed a burgeoning rivalry in recent years, with Iola winning the AA American Legion state title two straight years, only to see its seasons come to an end both times at the hand of the AAA state champ Pittsburg squad.

Tuesday’s back-and-forth affair showed plenty of intensity on both sides.

Pittsburg took advantage of a hit batter and error to take a 2-0 lead in the top of the third before Iola erupted for four runs in the bottom of the inning. 

Avery Blaufuss started things with a leadoff double. Courtesy runner Brody Gunderman waltzed home when Tre Wilson rifled an RBI triple to center. Rogan Weir walked with two outs, and both he and Wilson scored when Trey Sommer banged an RBI double to left. McKarnin worked a 2-2 count before lacing a double to right, scoring Sommer for a 4-2 advantage.

The Patriots responded quickly, scoring twice more in the top of the fourth to tie the score.

The Sommer-McKarnin connection provided the decisive rally in the bottom of the sixth. Sommer, at 0-2 in the count, drilled a 2-2 pitch back up the middle for a leadoff single. He stole second, and scored on McK- arnin’s liner back up the middle.

A double play short-circuited Iola’s hopes to tack on any insurance, but Sommmer — called on to relieve Iola starter Korbin Cloud — made sure that didn’t matter. He struck out the first two batters of the seventh and retired the third on a routine grounder to second to end the game.

Sommer was Iola’s key protagonist at the plate as well, going 3-for-3 with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs.

McKarnin had a single and double and two RBIs. Wilson hit a triple, while Blaufuss doubled. Kyler Isbell also had a single.

Cloud pitched the first six innings, striking out eight while allowing six hits.

GAME 2, a five-inning affair, saw Pittsburg get the early jump on Trevor Amershek’s two-run home run in the top of the first. The Patriots tacked on single runs in the third and fourth to extend their lead to 4-0.

Iola, meanwhile, had its hands full with Pittsburg starter Noah Duncan. After Cloud and Blake Ellis reached base via errors to lead off Iola’s half of the first inning, Duncan retired the next 10 batters in order.

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