Kansas City Kansas Community College hitters pounded out 43 hits in a doubleheader at Highland last Thursday but it was the Blue Devil hurlers who stepped front and center in completing a sweep of the four-game series Saturday.
In 16 innings, Highland scored in only two as the Blue Devils posted 10-4 and 7-1 wins as four KCKCC hurlers combined to give up just seven hits in the two games.
The sweep pulled the Blue Devils (17-7) to within one game of Jayhawk East leader Neosho County (18-6), which dropped a 21-14 decision to Coffeyville Saturday after an 11-1 win in the opener. The sweep also kept KCKCC two games in front of Allen County, Fort Scott and Cowley, all at 15-9, heading into the final three 4-game series of the season.
KCKCC goes to Allen County for two games Thursday, then returns home to complete the final Saturday series of the season at 1 p.m. The Blue Devils then wrap up Jayhawk play against Fort Scott April 21-23 and Neosho County April 28-30.
Retired KCKCC Coach Steve Burleson was honored before the first game for his upcoming induction into the NJCAA Baseball Hall of Fame at the NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colo. Scheduled to throw out the first pitch, Burleson summoned his 11-year-old grandson Tyler Crowell from the bullpen to make the first pitch.
KCKCC had to rally from a 4-2 deficit in the 10-4 7-inning opener. Drew Holtgrieve delivered the big blow in the game, a vicious bases-loaded double in the gap in left-center that scored two runs and set up a sacrifice fly by Malone Smith. After a leadoff single by Chase Redick and an error, Travis Stroup singled to cut the Highland lead to 4-3 and a walk loaded the bases for Holtgrieve's game-winning double.
Ryan Fisher's 2-run double highlighted a 4-run sixth. After a single by Redick and a walk, Eli Lovell singled in a run, Fisher doubled in two more and Holtgrieve delivered his third RBI with a single. It was Holtgrieve's third hit of the game while Redrick, Stroup and Fisher had two each.
Chad Cox got the win in relief, allowing just one hit in three innings. Jake Purl worked the first four innings, allowing only two hits but walked five including two with the bases-loaded in a 4-run third inning.
Tanner Vestal threw a no-hitter for six innings in the 9-inning nightcap, walking five and striking out five before being relieved after 97 pitches, 55 for strikes. Cameron Bednar worked the final three innings for the save, allowing four hits and one run while walking four. The lone run came in the eighth on two singles, a walk and a sacrifice fly.
The Blue Devils scored all the runs they needed in the first, taking a 2-0 lead on a leadoff double by Redick, a two-out single by Eli Lovell and a triple to center by Fisher. Lovell's third hit of the game scored another run in the fifth and the Blue Devils scored two more runs in the seventh on a single by Conor Behrens, a walk, Fisher's run-scoring ground ball and a double by Holtgrieve..
Members of the 2016 KCKCC baseball team joined in honoring retired coach Steve Burleson (kneeling, center) on his upcoming induction into the NJCAA Baseball Hall of Fame. Scheduled to throw out the first pitch, Burleson summoned his 11-year-old grandson, Tyler Crowell, to make the opening pitch. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)