CHANUTE – The Hutchinson Blue Dragons hit four home runs and remained alive in the Region VI Tournament Chanute Sub-Regional on Sunday.
Hutchinson dropped to the loser’s bracket after dropping a 3-1 decision to sub-regional top-seed Neosho County in the first game on Sunday. The Blue Dragons then responded as Tucker Cross, Grant Dunnegan, B.B. Kimbrell and Tanner Lubach homered in a 12-7 victory over Highland in the losers’ bracket final at Neosho County’s Hudson Field.
The Blue Dragons (40-16) will now play Neosho County (44-14) in the sub-regional championship game at 1 p.m. on Monday. The Blue Dragons, just as they did two years ago when they finished third at the NJCAA World Series, will have to defeat the Panthers twice on Monday to advance to the Central District Championship Tournament at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita next weekend.
The Blue Dragons reached 40 wins for the sixth time in program history, the second time under head coach Kyle Crookes.
GAME 2 RECAP – HUTCHINSON 12, HIGHLAND 7
Sophomore Toby Cornejo went 4 for 5 with three RBIs and the Blue Dragons had a season-high four homers to help keep the season going for at least another day while eliminating the Scotties with a 12-7 victory in the loser’s bracket final.
Since a four-run third inning against Highland in the opening game on Saturday, the Dragons went 11-straight innings without scoring and scored just one over a 16-inning stretch in the sub-regional. That changed in the third inning against the Scotties on Sunday when Cornejo hit a sharply hit grounder off the leg of Highland starter Josh Glenn that allowed Christian Cox to score the game’s first run.
HCC went on to score at least one run in five of its final six at-bats in pounding out 13 hits, seven for extra bases, against eight Highland pitchers.
Cornejo tied a career high with four hits, including a double, three RBIs, two stolen bases and two runs to power the Blue Dragons offensively. Lubach was 3 for 5, pounding a double and a three-run home run in Hutchinson’s five-run sixth inning. Lubach had four RBIs. Cross was 2 for 4 with a home run. Seven of HCC’s nine offensive starters had at least one hit.
Highland out-hit HCC, pounding out a season-high 16 hits off four Blue Dragon pitchers. Thomas Anderson (1-1) earned his first Blue Dragon victory, tossing 2 1-3 innings in relief.
Hutchinson surrendered two leads in the game.
The Blue Dragons led 3-0 after four innings – Cornejo’s RBI single in the third and solo home runs by Cross and Dunnegan in the fourth. The Scotties scored three runs in the top of the fifth to tie the game at 3-all. HCC led 5-3 after five innings when Cornejo doubled in Justin Harris and scored in a error. But the Scotties answered right back with two in the top of the sixth to knot the game at 5-all.
The Dragons took their third lead in the sixth when Kimbrell led off the inning with a solo home run to right center. Cornejo drove in his third run with a bunt single and then Lubach launched a three-run bomb down the left-field line to give HCC a 10-5 lead.
GAME 1 RECAP – NEOSHO COUNTY 3, HUTCHINSON 1
The Blue Dragons struck out a season-high 14 times, 13 against Neosho County starter Matt Strahm, as the Panthers defeated HCC 3-1 in the winner’s bracket final in the first game on Sunday, snapping the Blue Dragons’ season-long 10-game winning streak.
Strahm and HCC starter Jean Acevedo were locked in a pitcher’s duel through the first four innings. Acevedo retired the first 12 Neosho County batters he faced. Strahm struck out 10 Blue Dragons over his first five innings.
Neosho County finally broke on top with an unearnred run in the top of the fifth and added two more runs in the sixth off Acevedo, who pitched well for the fifth-straight start.
Acevedo (5-5) pitched 6 1-3 innings, allowing only four hits and three runs; two were unearned, with two strikeouts in taking the loss. Acevedo was victimized by two huge errors. Sophomore Devon Brogan pitched 2 2-3 innings in relief with four strikeouts and a walk.
But Strahm was tough working eight innings with 13 strikeouts and allowing only five hits, one earned run and two walks.
The Blue Dragons had their opportunities in the sixth innings. Already down 3-0, Cornejo and then tried to score all the way from first on a Lubach double to right-center field, but was thrown out at the plate. Three batters later, the Blue Dragons missed tying the game by about two feet as Kimbrell doubled high off the right-field wall to score Lubach, but the Dragons couldn’t score any more in the inning and trailed 3-1.
Kimbrell was 2 for 3 with a double and RBI to lead HCC, which out-hit Neosho County 5-4.
GAME NOTES – The 2012 Blue Dragons tied the 2001 team for the fifth-most victories in team history. … Toby Cornejo extended his career-long hitting streak to 12 games and B.B. Kimbrell extended his hitting streak to six games. … Lubach’s homer was his team-high 13th of the season. Kimbrell and Dunnegan hit their third each and Cross hit his second inning. … The Dragons struck out 20 times on Sunday and have fanned 29 in the sub-regional. … The Blue Dragons are hitting 9 for 35 with four RBIs with runners in scoring position in the sub-regional.
(HCC Sports Information)