While the spring high school baseball season has officially concluded, area athletes and coaches are already back on the field with next year's campaign in mind.
The Joplin Miners 18-under baseball team defeated Neosho 7-6 on Tuesday night at Joplin High School.
After the contest, both team managers noted the summer’s focus for their athletes is on gaining experience and honing skills.
“Player development is a big part of the summer,” Joplin Miners manager Kyle Wolf said. “There’s an opportunity to work on some things that they need to get better at or some things we need to prepare for next spring.
“It’s also about team development,” added Wolf, who is Joplin High School’s head coach. “We’re trying to figure out the puzzle pieces of where guys will fit in next spring. We get that process started in the summer.”
Joplin’s 18-under squad has 14 athletes on its roster. The Miners went 2-2 at a Memorial Day tournament ahead of Tuesday’s win.
“It’s gone well so far,” Wolf said. “We’re playing a lot of the travel teams or select teams this summer. It’s a good opportunity for our guys to see good arms and to go out and compete.”
Joplin will travel to Branson for a showcase tourney from Thursday through Saturday. The Miners are scheduled to host Seneca at 5 next Wednesday before a Connie Mack qualifier runs from June 13-16.
Carthage, Nevada and Lamar are other 18-under teams on Joplin’s upcoming schedule.
Neosho brought 12 players to Tuesday’s clash.
Like Wolf, Neosho manager Danny Powers said the summer months are more about player development than wins and losses.
“For us, we’re trying to develop our younger players and get them exposed to a variety of different situations so they’re ready to go next spring,” Powers said. “We have a lot of young guys who haven’t had a lot of varsity experience yet, so we want to play good teams and work on situational things. In the summer, we try to get the guys as many at-bats as they can get and we let guys play different positions because you never know what could happen in the spring.”
As far as Tuesday’s game, Joplin earned a 7-6 walk-off victory when Carson Wampler delivered the game-winning single into left field in the bottom of the ninth inning, scoring Holden Ledford.
Five players had two hits apiece for Joplin — Alex Curry, Josh Harryman, Luke Benfield, Fielding Campbell and Wampler. Curry delivered a game-tying sacrifice fly in the eighth, scoring Benfield.
Curry, Harryman, Kirk Chandler and Ledford pitched for the hosts, who overcame a 6-3 deficit by pushing across four unanswered runs late in the game.
Nakota Bach recorded three hits for Neosho, while Wyatt Keplar, Bryce Hall and Zach Bertrand pitched for the visitors.
Like Joplin, Neosho has a busy month ahead on the diamond.
“We’ve already got two tournaments in and I think we’ll get 30 games in this month,” Powers said. “We’ve been pretty competitive and the guys are doing a good job.”