By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
Joplin baseball coach Kirk Harryman had no difficulty identifying the difference in a 4-3 loss to the West Plains Zizzers on Wednesday at Wendell Redden Stadium.
“I thought we competed pretty well,” Harryman said. “I thought it just came down to who made the most plays. We had three errors, and they didn’t have any. I think that’s kind of the tale of the tape there.”
The Eagles (1-1, 0-1 Ozark Conference) committed an error in the third, fifth and seventh innings, and all three errors led to runs. The error in the seventh led to West Plains’ winning run.
In the top of the seventh, Joplin freshman relief pitcher Tyler McGrew struck out West Plains’ Jacob Mitchell and Taylor Gill to open the inning. Zizzers designated hitter Matt Wernsing then reached on an error by third baseman Brett Graham.
Wernsing then stole second, and Lane Scherff singled to right field to score Wernsing as Joplin catcher Kealin Smith lost the ball as he applied the tag.
“The frustrating part is that we weren’t exactly where we needed to be as far as cuts and relays go,” Harryman said. “And as frustrating as that is, even though we were in the wrong spots and cut a ball we shouldn’t cut, we still had a chance to make an out. We just have to execute and do a little better job. I know that’s not an error in the book, but that’s just a simple throw and catch. If we want to win games like that, it’s a play we got to make.”
West Plains coach Chris Quarti said he had confidence in Wernsing’s speed to score on the play.
“He stole second base to put us in position for a base hit to score,” Quarti said. “I went ahead and sent him on the road. I thought we’d take our chances on the road, and he came through.”
Joplin took an early 3-1 lead after Graham plated Chris Leonardi on an RBI double in the bottom of the first, and Blake Brown hit an RBI single before Nate Brummer knocked in a run on a sacrifice fly in the second.
The Eagles registered three runs, three hits and three walks off West Plains starting pitcher Dalton Freshour in the first two innings.
Relief pitcher Dusty Harrill took over in the bottom of the third, and the lefty limited Joplin to zero hits and two walks over the next five innings.
“He really came in and pitched well,” Quarti said. “He’s a good pitcher. When he’s on, it’s tough to hit him.”
Joplin starter Tristan Ash allowed three hits and one earned run over four innings.
West Plains improved to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the Ozark.
Joplin travels to Claremore, Okla., today to face McAlester at 2:30 p.m. and Claremore at 5.