The first six months of the year have already made 2017 a banner year for sports in the Daily News coverage area.
The first six months of the year have already made 2017 a banner year for sports in the Daily News coverage area.
Please keep in mind that we have six months remaining on the year and if the final six months of the year are anything like the first six months, then we will all be equally blessed.
Here’s a rundown of some of the most news worthy sports items of the first half of 2017.
Neosho wrestling claims 5th straight title
The Neosho Wildcats earned their fifth straight Class 3 state title with 150 points — Smithville took second at 118 — and seven state medalists, Adrian Hitchcock state champion at 285 pounds, Gannon Millard second 132, Trenton Young and Joey Williams third 126 and 170 respectively, Braxton Barnes and Zach Plummer fourth 138 and 195 respectively, and Christian Nutz sixth 220.
“Very proud of the kids,” Neosho head coach Jeremy Phillips said. “It could have been very easy for the kids to let doubt consume us. It could have very easily consumed us. We kept the faith in our fight. We preach all the time about the faith factor and these young men are a great testament to staying true to that. They believed when maybe the odds were stacked against us.
“Adversity hit us hard. We didn’t let it keep us down and we got back today, and had an excellent first round this morning. That set the tone for our finish and I can’t be more proud of these guys. A selfless group of young men. It’s awful exciting and just rewarding to see the progress of those kids that came from believing in our process of doing things at Neosho.
“We’re team champions because of selfless individuals willing to fight for their family and make sacrifices, whether it’s change weight classes for the team or … they’re champions of character.”
Neosho proved true to its motto ‘Be A Finisher.’
Crowder baseball makes JUCO World Series
For the second time in the history of the Crowder baseball program, the Roughriders reached the JUCO World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado.
“Back in Grand Junction for the first time since 2010,” Crowder head coach Travis Lallemand said after Crowder’s win over Seminole (Oklahoma) State for the district title. “We know what we’re doing now. Last time we went out there, we were pretty clueless and went 1-2. We’ll know how to prepare them as coaches better.
“Our depth came into play in this tournament. We lost that heartbreaker on Saturday (2-1 to Seminole State), I guess it was. All year long, these guys don’t wear that and they don’t care about all that stuff. All they’re in for is to play the next day. They just extended their season. We’re going back to Colorado. That place is an absolute heaven. This group deserves every bit of it.”
At the World Series, Crowder lost its opener to eventual national champion Chipola, came back for elimination wins against Dyersburg State and Wallace-Dothan, and finished 54-14 overall on the season and sixth in the World Series after a final loss to Cowley.
Elvis Peralta and Kobe Morris made all-tournament, Peralta won leading hitter and Lallemand earned the sportsmanship award.
Peralta and Joey Cooner received NJCAA Division I All-American honors, Peralta on the first team and Cooner third team.
Neosho girls soccer wins 1st district title
The Neosho Lady Wildcats soccer program began in 2001 and, after some previous close calls in previous title games, the Lady Wildcats their first ever district title with a 2-0 win over Webb City in the Class 3, District 12 championship game at Carl Junction’s Bulldog Stadium.
Ashley Talley — Neosho’s leading goal scorer all season — netted both goals and the Lady Wildcats’ defense pitched two shutouts in the district tournament, helping outscore McDonald County and Webb City by a combined 10-0 score.
The Lady Wildcats won 10 matches in a row before their sectional loss to Bolivar.
“We’ve been right there,” Neosho head coach Steve Schnackenberg said after winning districts. “It’s nice. I told these girls at practice, we’ve been really good at talking about winning district titles, this group just came out to win a district title. They put things together to win it.
“It’s just tough coming here (Carl Junction) and we haven’t played well on turf this year, but I think we did tonight.
“Just looked at that. Think it’s 10 (in a row). We went through a low spot for a while and just squeaked out a couple wins there and all of a sudden, these girls turned it on here. They poked at the right time and we’re actually getting better as we go.”
Crowder softball wins Region 16 title
The Crowder Lady Roughriders highlighted their 55-win season with the program’s first Region 16 title since 2012, winning five games after losing the opening game of the tournament in a truly enduring fashion between weather delays and a tournament relocation.
Crowder won the first game against Indian Hills in District J play, but Indian Hills won two straight and the JUCO World Series clincher came on a home run in the 11th inning.
Oakley Sisemore, Paige Mendoza, Kristen Dempsey and Maddie Massanelli each earned All-American recognition of some form or another, and head coach John Sisemore and assistant Samantha Juarez earned Region 16 coaching staff of the year. Oakley Sisemore won the NFCA New Balance Golden Shoe Award for most outstanding base stealer, successful on all 71 attempts.
“This was my first recruiting class with both freshmen and sophomores,” Coach Sisemore said. “We knew we had a lot of raw talent and a chance to be good before we played our first fall game. We had a huge fall schedule to prepare for the spring. We started off by run-ruling D1 Missouri State, so at that point knew we could compete at a high level. We then played University of Missouri to an one-run loss losing on a two-run error in the last inning, then played several other top NCAA D1 and D2 schools in the fall, beating most.
“The entire team was phenomenal up and down the lineup (624 runs scored). We even had three or four kids on the bench that could at any time generate great offense. The speed at the top of our lineup was huge in pressuring defenses all season.”
Crowder finished ranked No. 18 in NJCAA Division I.
Washington Nationals make Turner 10th round pick
Trey Turner enjoyed outstanding careers at both Neosho High and Crowder before he played one season at Missouri State.
Although curtailed by a season-ending injury this past spring, Turner must have made a strong enough impression for Missouri State because the Washington Nationals selected Turner in the 10th round of the MLB Draft.
Turner said on Twitter, “I have absolutely no words. Thank you so much for the opportunity Nationals. Looking forward to being a National!!!”
Turner signed a contract with the Nationals — the 313th overall pick for $131,300.
Turner will join a slew of former Crowder players in professional baseball, as well as former Neosho pitcher Silas Bohannan, currently in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
Rodriguez wins NCAA-II national wrestling title
Former Neosho High standout Nate Rodriguez went out in style his senior year at Maryville.
After a promising junior season hampered by injury, Rodriguez came back with a vengeance his senior year and his fifth victory of the season against McKendree’s Darren Wynn — the defending national champion — gave Rodriguez a NCAA Division II national title at 141 pounds.
Rodriguez finished 32-2 his senior season and 108-16 overall between Ouachita Baptist (his first two years) and Maryville (his last two). He became a three-time All-American and a four-time NWCA Academic All-American.
Rodriguez won the Great Lakes Valley Conference’s Paragon Award for being the conference’s top male athlete and won the CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year.
“Nate is one of the finest young men I have had the privilege, pleasure and honor to work with in my 48 years of teaching and coaching,” Maryville wrestling coach Mike Denney said in a media release. “He had an outstanding year and an amazing career on the mat and in the classroom for us at Maryville. We are so fortunate to have Nate in our program. He is a true leader by example. We can’t thank him enough for all he has given and done for our program.”
Record breaker Rathmann wraps up career
Former Neosho High standout Morgan Rathmann had one of those senior seasons where it seemed like that she broke a record with every step.
For example, she established Missouri Western school records for career hits, career runs scored and career stolen bases during her senior season and she broke the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association career record for triples during the postseason conference tournament. Rathmann already broke the school record for triples her junior season.
All told, Rathmann finished with 32 career triples, 182 career runs scored, 265 career hits and 99 career stolen bases.
Earning Academic All-American honors for the first time, as well, Rathmann also has been nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year, one of 117 NCAA Division II candidates. Eventually, after multiple rounds of cuts, the winner will be announced October 22 in Indianapolis.
Four new football head coaches
It was definitely one of those offseasons in the Daily News coverage area, when Seneca’s Ryan McFarland — approaching his second season as the Indians’ head coach — became the dean of coaches at their respective schools.
That means new head coaches at Neosho, McDonald County, East Newton, and Diamond.
Former Neosho coach Dustin Baldwin took the Republic job — after Wes Beachler’s resignation — and the Wildcats hired Kansas high school coaching veteran Leon Miller. Miller guided the 1994 Frontenac Raiders to a Kansas state title and he spent the overwhelming majority of his three-decade coaching career at Frontenac and Girard.
Former Diamond coach Ben Glidewell parlayed two successful seasons coaching the Wildcats into a job at St. Joseph Benton. The Wildcats of Diamond in turn hired former Fort Scott Community College head coach Curtis Horton.
In recent seasons, McDonald County and East Newton have been no stranger to hiring a new head coach on the eve of a new season.
Coaching veteran John Diehl left the Mustangs after one season and McDonald County hired former Monett assistant Kellen Hoover as their new head coach. Hoover was an assistant on Monett’s Class 3 state title winner last season. The Mustangs currently are on a 16-game losing streak, the longest such streak in the Daily News coverage area.
Former East Newton coach Jamie LaSalle helmed the Patriots to three wins — after ending both extended losing streaks overall and in the Big 8 Conference — in his only season, but left for the head coach position at his alma mater Miller. The Patriots hired Broc Wolfe as their new head man.
This makes three head coaches in three years for McDonald County and four in four years for East Newton.
Neosho boys earn first winning season since 2009-10
It had been a long time coming for the Neosho boys basketball program — since the 2009-10 season for a winning campaign.
With a 67-56 win on a late February Tuesday night, Neosho guaranteed that first winning season in a long time with a victory over conference foe Carl Junction.
At that moment, head coach Tony Branscum did not want to reflect on the winning season.
“We’re very proud of that,” he said, “but it’s not time to reflect on that. It’s time to get ready for a huge game on Senior Night against No. 6 Nixa. We are thrilled that we get an opportunity to go against such a good team. We’re going to give it our very best.”
Behind seniors Coleman Scott, Connor Johnson, Bryce Murphy, Ethan Siler, and Brian Banks, the Wildcats finished with a 14-13 overall record.
Banks’ 3-point shot Senior Night against Nixa
In late December, in Neosho’s first game of the Holiday Classic, Brian Banks’ field goal drew the Wildcats to a 24-23 deficit against the unbeaten West Memphis (Arkansas) Blue Devils.
During that game, Banks went down with a seemingly season-ending knee injury — a key loss for the Wildcats because of Banks’ athleticism, skill, and versatility.
In the Wildcats’ final home game of the season, Banks came back in dramatic fashion for one final moment. Banks drained a 3-point shot on Neosho’s first possession and earned a standing ovation from the Wildcat faithful.
“Brian Banks starting tonight and hitting a trey to start the game was a great moment,” Neosho head coach Tony Branscum said. “It was really nice to see him in uniform and on the floor after such an unfortunate injury so early in the season. That was fun, just a perfect situation for him and a perfect moment for Senior Night. That part of it couldn’t have gone any better.”
Flood damages Morse Park, Seneca Complex
Late April flood waters wreaked havoc on Morse Park and the Seneca Baseball and Softball Complex, leaving them a mess.
In the immediate aftermath, Neosho Little League board president Angie O’Dell Leach posted on Facebook, “PLEASE please avoid and stay out of the ballpark until we can get a clean up and rebuild plan into action. I have spoken with City officials and we are starting the process to move forward but need everyone to please be patient. We are so thankful for the out pouring of help and will let everyone know when as soon as possible but for now everyone can be most helpful by keeping out of the ballpark.”
With just a couple weeks of delays and the considerable help of Branco, Neosho Little League returned to Morse Park.
The Seneca Indians finished their season playing their home games at Joplin High, including the Class 4, District 12 tournament, because of the flood damage.
Just a couple days after the flood, however, Neosho and Seneca played each other at Roy B. Shaver Stadium in the first meeting of the schools in baseball in several years.
“It’s good to get out here and get some sense of normalcy after everything,” Seneca head coach Chris Yust said. “it was good to get out here and get a game in.
“It’s rough, but we’ll get through it. It’s not the first time we’ve been through it. We’ll go back and build again. That’s all you can do. It’s a process, but we’ll fight through. We’ll come up with a plan for the rest of the year and we’ll get through it.”
Prewitt strikes out 18 in early season
It was only the third game of the season and the Diamond Wildcats were playing the Butler Bears in the championship game of the Lamar Tiger Classic.
Making his first start of the season, Diamond senior Carter Prewitt sure started his season in style.
Let’s see here, Prewitt struck out 18 Bears and walked just one, and surrendered three hits during a 5-1 win over the Bears.
Prewitt finished with 97 pitches and accounted for the first eight outs of the game with strikeouts. The ninth out came when Prewitt tagged out a Butler runner during a rundown. The other non-strikeout outs were a pair of flyouts.
Diamond head coach Zach Shockey said that Prewitt — who dominated locating his fastball all game — was fun to watch.
He sure was, Coach.
Prewitt signed to play baseball at Independence (Kansas) Community College next season.