WEBB CITY, Mo. — The Joplin baseball knew what Webb City was capable of doing in the opposing dugout.
The Eagles knew the driving force behind the Class 5 No. 3 Cardinals’ fast start this season has been a high-powered offense.
But the right arm of Ethan Guilford stymied Webb City’s offense, and an opportunistic Joplin offense (9-2) cashed in on five Cardinal errors to earn a big 8-4 Central Ozark Conference victory on Thursday afternoon at Chuck Barnes Field.
“We all know that is a really good baseball team in the other dugout, but I felt like our kids played really hard,” Eagles coach Kyle Wolf said. “They executed in a lot of situations when we needed to, and we took advantage of some things when they were available. When we do those things, we can play a little bit, too.”
Guilford fell two outs shy of a complete game. The junior allowed two runs on five hits over 6 1/3 innings while fanning six batters.
“My two-seamer was moving the most,” Guilford said. “I had a really good day with that. In past outings, I have had trouble controlling that. My two-seam was really working, and the slider was working at times, too.”
Webb City threatened to do damage early. The Cardinals got multiple runners aboard in the first two frames, but Guilford dodged trouble with a strikeout of Eli Goddard to strand the bases loaded in the first inning and yielded a flyout to Treghan Parker to strand two runners in the second.
Kyler Stokes got Joplin on the board after doubling down the left field line to bring home Kirk Chandler in the second inning.
Kohl Cooper followed with a sacrifice fly to medium right field, giving the Eagles a 2-0 lead in the third. The Cardinals sliced the deficit in half after Matt Woodmansee scored on an error in the bottom of the third.
Cooper came through again in the top of the fifth, finding a hole on the left side with a two-run single to extend Joplin’s lead to 4-1. The Eagles pushed across four more tallies in the sixth open an 8-1 advantage.
Bodee Carlson and Campbell had run-scoring hits apiece in that inning, while the other two runs scored on errors. After the third frame, Guilford found his groove, retiring 10 of his last 14 batters.
“I’ll be honest, I thought at times he struggled with his breaking ball but he kept fighting,” Wolf said. “Ethan’s a bulldog, man. He continues to go out and challenge hitters. I thought we were pretty good defensively overall behind him.”
Cole Gayman and Goddard accounted for the Cardinals’ final runs. Gayman lifted a fly ball to right field for a sacrifice fly, and Goddard produced an RBI double before Josh Harryman finished it off in relief with a flyout to center field.
“Any mistake we had, they made us pay,” Webb City coach Flave Darnell said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do the same. Tip your hat to their pitcher. If you would say he was going into the seventh after the first inning, I would have been shocked. He made pitches when he needed to make pitches. He got out of jams. They picked up the ball on defense. They made some nice plays. We struggled a little bit on defense today. Unfortunately, a hit seemed to follow after an error.
“Five hits and five errors will not win you baseball games. That’s just how it goes. That’s the way baseball goes sometimes.”
Joplin smacked 10 hits, with Campbell finishing with three hits and an RBI. Cooper added one hit and three RBI, while Carlson collected two hits and an RBI.
“Our last game against West Plains, we struggled,” Guilford said. “We came out here knowing we had to play, and we just beat a team that is really, really good. I think that will be a big confidence booster for our team.”
Gayman took the loss for the Cardinals (10-2). He gave up four runs on six hits over five innings.
Joplin travels to Springfield to play Willard and Springfield Catholic at 9 a.m. and 11 Saturday, respectively.
Webb City faces Nixa and Harrison at Nixa at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Saturday, respectively.