The Joplin softball team’s bats caught fire on Thursday night as the Eagles claimed a 13-6 triumph over Branson on Senior Night at the JHS softball field.
Joplin recorded its highest-scoring game since 2018 when it defeated East Newton 13-7 at the Carthage Invitational.
“We just came up with a simple approach, and that’s hunting fastballs,” Joplin coach Manny Flores said. “We were a lot more aggressive. We’ve been working on it all year because that’s been our Achilles' heel — being able to get runners in once we get them on the bags. But today we were more aggressive, and it showed.”
Joplin (3-6), totaling 15 hits, trailed by as many as three runs early but managed to take the lead for good with a five-run showing in the bottom of the fourth to go up 10-5.
The pivotal fourth frame was highlighted by a sacrifice fly by sophomore Isabella Yust, a one-run single by Keegan Midcap and a three-run triple by sophomore Jill McDaniel.
McDaniel finished 3-for-4 with three RBI to pace the Eagles offensively. She also pitched 3 1/3 innings in relief, limiting Branson to no runs and no hits while striking out four batters.
“She was excellent for us tonight,” Flores said of McDaniel. “She came in to pitch (in the top of the fifth) when we were in a tough spot with the bases loaded and two outs, and she just threw strikes, let the defense play behind her and got us out of the jam. So she did a great job of coming in and shutting the door down. And of course, she was great at the plate for us, too.”
Branson momentarily trimmed the Joplin lead to four runs with a one-run fifth before the Eagles responded in the bottom of the frame with three more runs. Junior Liz Snider plated two on a double to left field, and then senior Tatum Stogsdill recorded an RBI single to give Joplin the 13-6 lead.
After falling in a 3-0 hole, Joplin got on the board in the bottom of the second on an RBI single by senior Reece Schroer. Freshman Abby McGinnis then tied the score with a two-run single through the middle before back-to-back RBI singles by freshman Bailey Ledford and Yust gave the Eagles their first lead at 5-3.
Senior Brittany Shryock started in the circle for the Eagles and limited Branson to one earned run and 11 hits.
“I thought our defense was trying to a little too much early, but we eventually settled down and Brittany settled down,” Flores said. “We started making plays behind Brittany and built up some needed confidence after those early innings.”
Branson plated five runs off three Joplin errors. Senior Molly Smith led the Pirates with three hits in four plate appearances.
After the game, Joplin held a Senior Night ceremony to honor Shryock, Stogsdill, Schroer and Kami Manning.
“I’m just proud of this group of seniors and the work they’ve put in,” Flores said. “I know I haven’t been here all four years for them, but like I told them, once an Eagle, always an Eagle. They’re out here doing everything they can to get this program turned around, and I’m just proud of the effort and leadership they display each day.”