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Blanchard throws shutout in first start on mound in Tigers' Red & Blue Classic opener

OZARK'S GANNON MILLER tags out a Liberty baserunner at home plate in the teams' contest Saturday.
OZARK'S GANNON MILLER tags out a Liberty baserunner at home plate in the teams' contest Saturday.

Landon Blanchard showed at the Red & Blue Classic over the weekend he's picked up a few things about pitching from teammate Cooper Pumphrey.

Blanchard threw a complete game while shutting out Belton in Ozark’s 6-0 triumph Friday. It proved to be the only win for the Tigers (5-5) in four games at the Classic.

Blanchard and his twin brother, Ethan, grew up with Pumphrey as their next-door neighbor.

“He was our next-door neighbor for a few years when we were in elementary school,” Landon said of Pumphrey, who has quickly established himself as Ozark’s ace. “We played catch and did everything together. We were always outside. We don’t live anywhere near each other now, but we're still friends.”

Blanchard doesn’t pitch with the velocity Pumphrey does, but is throwing with accuracy any pitcher would be proud of. He blanked Belton (5-4) while walking two and hitting one batter.

“I threw a lot of strikes,” Blanchard said. “My goal every game is to throw it over the plate and let (the opponents) hit it. My team was there to defend me. I couldn't have done it without them.”

It was Blanchard’s first varsity start on the mound. He pitched a couple games on the varsity a year ago.

“I have a lot more confidence this year,” he said.

The shutout was Ozark’s first since a 13-0 victory versus Carthage last season. The Tigers posted three shutouts a year ago.

When not pitching, Blanchard patrols left field. He collected a pair of hits in Ozark’s 10-1 loss to Liberty (6-4) on Saturday. He reached on a bunt single and ripped a double.

“We practice bunting all the time. Anytime I go up there, I'm ready and confident to lay it down,” Blanchard said. “I knew that was what I was going to do the moment I looked over at the third baseman. He was way back.”

Pumphrey was a hard-luck loser in Ozark’s 1-0 setback against Benton (9-1) on Friday. The Tigers closed their weekend out by dropping a 5-4 decision to Kearney (9-3) on Saturday.

Ozark has dropped five of six games after a 4-0 start to the season.