The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

April 2, 2014

Unearned runs lift Webb City past Joplin

Eagles commit three errors in costly inning

The Webb City Cardinals capitalized on three Joplin errors in the third inning, plating four unearned runs on the way to a 6-4 win Tuesday in a nonconference game at Wendell Redden Stadium.

The Eagles jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning, thanks in large part to their leadoff man, shortstop Chris Leonardi. Leonardi walked on four pitches in the bottom of the inning before stealing second and third just six pitches apart.

Webb City starter Cade Crouch walked his second batter, center fielder Gavin Jones, to put runners on the corners. Tristan Ash hit a ground ball up the middle and Jones, off with the pitch, beat shortstop Calem Nutting’s feed on the would-be double play ball, allowing Leonardi to score.

Joplin starter Kealin Smith retired the first six Cardinals he faced, but the Eagle defense unraveled in the third. Andrew Greek reached on an error by first baseman Josh Miller and then advanced on a wild pitch. Cooper Strasser walked to put runners on first and second.

Devin Pickett, Webb City’s ninth-place hitter, attempted a sacrifice bunt, but Smith fielded and threw wide of Miller at first and Greek scored to tie the game. Strasser also advanced to third on the play. Catcher Tyler Davison popped out to short for the first out before Kolten Potts walked to load the bases.

Jones made a diving attempt on Kyle Baldassarre’s hard line drive to center, but he came up just short and Strasser scored another Cardinal run. One batter after narrowly missing a spectacular catch, Jones misplayed what would have been a much more routine one.

Austin Carter popped up to center and Jones, trying to get in position to make a throw home on the tagging runner, dropped the ball for Joplin’s third error of the inning. Nutting’s sacrifice fly scored Webb City’s fourth run of the inning.

“High school baseball ... there’s a lot of emotion,” Cardinal coach Chris Taylor said. “Momentum swings can happen easily. Ride it as long as you can. If they’re the ones struggling, pile it on, kind of thing.”

The Cardinals added two insurance runs in the seventh inning to make it a 6-3 lead, but Webb City had some defensive troubles in the bottom half. Catcher Tyson Hardee led off with a base hit and Will Sitton reached on a Nutting error, putting runners on first and second. Leonardi bunted to Crouch, but the first baseman Strasser also charged and no one covered first, loading the bases for Joplin. Crouch retired Johnny Maturino on strikes for the first out, but walked Jones to force in a run.

“We come back, we battled back and we got the tying run at second base with (batting lineup spots) 3-4-5 up, and gave ourselves a chance,” Joplin coach Kirk Harryman said.

Crouch, a Crowder College signee, rebounded and squelched the Eagle rally by striking out Ash and Johnson to end the game.

“I kind of told the guys, now you see how important that seventh inning was, that we got a few. Because in the last half of that inning, something else could’ve happened,” Taylor said.

Joplin (2-3) plays Tulsa Holland Hall at noon Thursday in the Grove Tournament.

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