How does a team allow seven runs in the top of the first inning and still find a way to win? Here’s a way: Three home runs, a resilient offense and a never say die approach backed with 12 hits, 13 runs and an inability to get Brendan Craig does the trick.
Just ask the Joplin Eagles.
After falling behind 7-0 in the top of the first inning on Saturday, the Wildcats stormed back with a relentless effort on offense to best the Eagles 13-11 in the Wildcats’ home opener.
The difference in the game was Craig’s bat. The junior went 3 for 3 at the plate with two home runs, a double, five RBIs and three runs scored. Oh, and the Eagles even walked him twice.
Not a bad day.
After Trey Turner homered with two outs in the sixth to tie it at 11, sophomore Logan Stuart singled to bring Craig to the dish. Already with a solo homer earlier in the game, Craig connected again on a two-run blast to put the Wildcats ahead.
Turner then came on to work a scoreless seventh in relief to move the Wildcats to 11-3 overall, capping one of the best starts in years for the baseball program.
“I’m surrounded by some good coaches and that’s been huge,” Wildcats coach Donny Pennington said of the start. “Another thing is, I’ve got 100 kids playing baseball today on traveling teams and everything. You’re going to start having success when people start buying into a program. It’s a testament to our community and to our program.”
Less than 24 hours removed from a no-hit performance by Joplin pitcher Adam St. Peter, the Eagles couldn’t keep the Wildcat bats at bay as they tagged senior pitcher Caleb Garton for 10 runs on 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings — including all three home runs.
Trailing 7-0 in the bottom of the second, Craig got the Wildcats on the board by smacking a bases-loaded double as Neosho plated three runs in the frame. They later plated five in the fourth to move ahead 8-7, but the Eagles answered with four in the top of the fifth to take the lead back 11-8.
Neosho pushed across two more in the fifth to make it 11-10.
“We struggled a little bit pitching in the first inning,” Pennington said. “I’m going to give props to coach (Drew) Osborne. Coach Os called the pitches, kept them off balance and Chase (Novak) made the pitches to keep us in it. Coach Os did a good job with the pitchers to get us through it.
“That’s one thing we preach to our kids is to fight to the very end, and that’s what we did today,” he added. “In the fifth inning they took the lead and we had a little bit of adversity, but (our team) didn’t let it get them down. They stepped up and said, ‘We’re going to win the game.’”
Stuart and Tyler Johnson both had two hits for the Wildcats, while Turner, Jayce Parmley, Kody Kelly, Andy Lett and Nathan Bankson had one apiece. Turner, Stuart, Parmley and Lett each drove in a run, while Kelly finished with three RBIs. Turner, Stuart and Johnson scored two runs apiece, while Parmley, Kelly, Lett and Bankson scored once.
Neosho also won its freshman game over Nevada 11-1 on Saturday. Brian Greenstreet was the winning pitcher.
Neosho entertains Willard at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.