A pair of victories on Friday helped offset Neosho’s first loss of the season on Thursday as the baseball Wildcats marched to a co-tournament championship with Piedmont (Okla.) at the Mark Howard Memorial Tournament in Chandler (Okla.) this week.
The Wildcats opened the tourney with a 9-2 loss to Chandler on Thursday, before rebounding to knock off Sentinel (Okla.) 6-4, and Sallisaw (Okla.) 14-8 on Friday. Saturday’s championship game against 12-0 Piedmont, one of the top Class 5 teams in Arkansas, was cancelled due to poor weather conditions, leaving the teams to share the title.
At 5-1 overall, the Wildcats are now 2 for 2 in tournaments this season — having also won the Sperry (Okla.) Tournament last weekend.
“We fought back to get to the championship game,” Wildcats coach Donny Pennington said. “I think the boys are playing well. I was glad to see their desire to fight back. To see them fight through some adversity was very good for us to see what we’re made of.”
On Thursday, the Wildcats couldn’t overcome Chandler’s solid pitching as the Lions held them to two runs on four hits. Neosho led 1-0 after Tyler Johnson drove in Trey Turner in the top of the first inning, but seven errors and several balks in the game helped the Lions climb back in it as they plated two runs in the second and five more in the third to go up 7-1.
The Wildcats would add another run in the fifth, but the Lions topped it with two of their own in the sixth.
“We came out flat in the first game and had some fielding mistakes, but having four or five balks, that’s what killed us. We hit the ball well, just everything we hit was right at them. I wasn’t disappointed with our at-bats.”
Despite finding itself on the losing end for the first time this season, Neosho rebounded with a pair of strong performances on Friday. They began the day by holding off a late charge by Sentinel in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Wildcats broke a scoreless tie in the third by pushing across three runs, and added two more in the fifth to push ahead 5-0. The Black Diamonds got on the board with a run in the sixth, but Neosho plated an insurance run in the top of the seventh to make it 6-1 before things got interesting. A three-run burst in the seventh had the Wildcats in danger of a losing streak, but they managed to slam the door just in time to preserve the win.
Five players had a hit apiece for the Wildcats — Trey Turner, Brendan Craig, Jayce Parmley, Kody Kelly and Chris Paullus. Turner had the big blow in the game, a three-run homer in the third, while Craig and Parmley both doubled. Paullus and Kelly each drove in a run.
Page 2 of 2 - Kyler Finley earned the win on the mound for the Wildcats, tossing 61/3 innings and allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits with three walks and a strikeout.
Perhaps that win helped liven Neosho’s bats for the nightcap as the Wildcats pounded out 13 hits, including five for extra bases, as they stopped the Sentinel Bulldogs in six innings.
Craig was one of three Wildcats to collect two hits in the game, and he made both of them count with a two-run homer and a triple to finish with three RBI. Turner slugged three hits, including a triple, and scored four runs, while Parmley and Kelly each had two hits. Johnson doubled and drove in three runs, while also scoring three times.
Peter Elwise, Parmley and Kelly each scored twice. Zach Workman doubled, while Paullus and Logan Stuart both singled in a run in the fourth inning.
The Wildcats will be in search of another tournament championship when they begin play against Stuttgart, Ark., at 7 p.m. Friday at the Harrison (Ark.) Tournament.