Joplin Neosho softball

Joplin's Courtney Shryock slides under the tag of Neosho third baseman Kylee Belcher as the Eagles try to mount a comeback during their Class 4 District 12 opening round game on Wednesday at Carthage. Globe | Laurie Sisk

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Neosho and Carthage rode quick starts to post first-round victories Wednesday in the Class 4 District 12 softball tournament at the Fair Acres softball complex.

The fourth-seeded Wildcats made three first-inning runs stand in a 3-0 victory over Joplin in the opener. Carthage then scored single runs in each of the first three innings to knock off third-seeded McDonald County 3-0.

Neosho pitcher Bailey Spence allowed only one hit — Courtney Shryock’s single in the sixth inning — struck out eight batters and walked two.

Shryock’s hit followed a walk to Kenzie Goswick and put two runners on base with one out, but Spence retired the next two batters on a grounder to first and flyout to left.

“We only had one hit, but we had people on base and opportunities to score runs,” Joplin coach Kirk Harryman said. “They made more of their opportunities than we made of ours.”

Joplin pitcher Mikaela Cox yielded four hits, struck out 11 and walked one, but Neosho did its damage in the first inning.

Wildcats leadoff batter Emily Harrell reached second when her grounder deflected off Spence and led to a throwing error, and Kylie Bach’s sacrifice moved Harrell to third.

After Spence walked, Cox recorded a strikeout for the second out. But Danielle Forkner singled to score one run, and Skyelar Long followed with a two-run single.

“It’s a game of inches,” Harryman said. “If the ball (hit by Harrell) is two inches one way, it’s in her glove and it’s a 1-2-3 inning. But it goes the other way, and we throw it away and set them up. Still we had an opportunity to get out of the inning, but they came up with two big hits with two outs.

“Softball can be a cruel game sometimes, mainly because it hurts people I care about,” Harryman said. “On the flipside of that, after the first inning we settled in and played well and gave ourselves chances. At the end of the day, you tip your hat to Neosho. Bailey Spence pitched a great game. They made more plays than we did, and they came up with two big, two-out hits and we missed our opportunities for two-out hits.”

The Eagles, after losing seven of their first nine games, finish with a 17-12 record. 

Carthage’s Megan Taylor blanked McDonald County on three singles, and the Tigers (6-21) supported her with errorless defense.

“Megan really kept the ball down and did a good job of hitting spots with her curve ball,” Tigers coach Mike Godfrey said. “Our defense really did a great job. Megan strikes out two, so we have to make 19 plays. Alexis (Paynter) did a good job at shortstop, and we made a couple of nice plays in the outfield.”

The offensive frustration for the Mustangs (19-10) was summarized in the sixth inning. Nicole Ickes’ line drive was hooking toward left-center field but tracked down by center fielder Mykah Schrader. Cloee Helms, robbed of a hit to right-center two innings earlier by Schrader, saw her line drive caught knee-high by right fielder Mika Bolton, and Hanna Schmit’s sharp grounder was directly at Paynter.

“We hit a lot of them right at them,” Mustangs coach Trey Shaddox said. “I told the girls some nights you just tip your cap to the other team and go on because there’s nothing you can do. It’s just one of those nights where you hit balls right at them and they played well.”

“They hit a lot of balls hard right at us,” Godfrey said. “We’ve been on the other end of that several times this year. Matter of fact, down at (McDonald County) they beat us 3-0 in a similar game when we hit balls right at them.”

The Tigers collected six of their eight hits in the first three innings.

Taylor led off the first with an infield single and scored on Bolton’s one-out double to left-center. Andrea Morris singled to start the second and came around to score on singles by Paynter and Stephanie Fitzpatrick.

And in the third, a single by Bolton, error on Kensey Sageser’s grounder and bunt single by Rylee Parrish loaded the bases. Schrader was then hit by a pitch to force in a run. 

Elizabeth Jones replaced starting pitcher Cheyanne Chappie and retired the next three batters on a popup to second, strikeout and flyout to center.

“We didn’t make a couple of plays early, but we settled down and played good defense,” Shaddox said. “I thought we swung at some pitches that maybe were not good pitches early in the count early in the game. After the first couple of innings, we started hitting the ball hard but couldn’t find a hole.”

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