The Neosho softball team saw its season come to a close on Wednesday after suffering a 5-1 loss to the Republic Lady Tigers in the first round of the Class 4, District 12 Tournament at the Neosho Softball Field at George Washington Carver Elementary School.
The Lady Wildcats finished the season 11-14 overall.
Republic jumped ahead with three runs in the second inning, sparked by a two-run double by Taylor Gold to make it 2-0. Gold later came around to score on an error to make it 3-0. The Lady Wildcats cut it to 3-1 in the fourth after Lindsay Vance led off with a walk, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a wild pitch.
The Lady Tigers plated two more in the fifth, however, as Abby Norris scored when she stole home on a double steal, and Gold singled and scored on a bases-loaded walk.
The loss spelled a bit of revenge for the Lady Tigers after they were beaten on the same field by Neosho a few weeks ago on a walk-off.
“We were excited about playing them again,” Lady Wildcats coach Brandi Arthur said. “We knew that they were going to be out for revenge. We knew they were going to be ready for us.”
The Lady Tigers sent freshman right-hander Rachel Rook to the mound, and she earned the victory after allowing four hits with six strikeouts and four walks. Rook’s riseball was lethal in the early going, before the Lady Wildcats adjusted late. When they did hit the ball well, however, their line drives seemed to be right at defenders.
“Republic’s a good team. You’re going to have to hit the ball in order to win, and their pitcher did a good job of keeping the ball up.”
Neosho wasn’t without its opportunities, however. Kylie Bach led off the game with a double and moved to third on a bunt, but Rook got back-to-back strikeouts to strand her at third and keep the game scoreless. The Lady Wildcats stranded eight runners in the game, including three at third base and five total in scoring position.
“Just no timely hitting for us today,” Arthur said.
Kylie Bach led Neosho with two hits, including the double, while Emily Harrell and Cassie Dickens had a hit each.
Bailey Spence took the loss for Neosho as she scattered six hits, walked 10 and struck out five.
Gold led Republic with two hits, two RBIs and scored two runs. Emily Hall, Danielle Shelton, Abby Norris and Caty Eby had a hit apiece.
The Lady Wildcats showed vast improvement this season, despite losing a pair of key seniors a year ago. They’ll lose three more seniors this season, but Arthur said she expects to see the team continue to grow.
Page 2 of 2 - “They won six games last year and we almost doubled the wins that they got (last year),” Arthur said. “We had a couple of kids that stepped up in the outfield and did well for us to fill those two spots. I couldn’t be more proud of them. Of course, as a coach you are never satisfied until you win every game that you should win, but there were probably four or five games there that we lost this year that I think we’ll win next year.
“I think we’ll see a different team next year. We’re graduating three players, three important players that are definitely difference makers. We’re going to have to have some of our JV kids, maybe some freshmen, really step up for us, but just figuring out that we can win ballgames if we do things right will help us with the games next year.
“Our goal was to finish .500. We didn’t quite get there, but next year we should definitely finish well above .500.”
In an earlier game on Wednesday, Joplin defeated Carthage 7-0. The Lady Eagles will now take on McDonald County at 5 p.m. today in semifinal action, while Republic will square off with Webb City at 7. The winners of those games will play for the district championship at noon Saturday at the Neosho Softball Field.