On a day the Neosho Wildcats honored their seniors, the Wildcats lost a pair of games Saturday at Roy B. Shaver Stadium in opposite methods.
In the first game Saturday morning against Jefferson City, Neosho fell behind 5-0 and then rallied for a 5-4 deficit in the bottom of the seventh with the winning run in scoring position with less than two outs. Neosho took a 5-4 loss.
In the second game later in the afternoon, Neosho ran into Class 5 No. 2-ranked Staley and the Falcons clawed the Wildcats 15-0 in six innings.
Neosho’s seniors are Gavin Carpenter, Gavin Kelley, Kaleb Moreland, Clint Winchester, and Hank Selig.
“We have East Newton,” Neosho head coach Danny Powers said, “which is our last home game officially. Playing so late, you don’t know what weather can happen. They’re guys who have been in our program three years now and they’ve done a good job of buying into what we do. It’s showed. All those seniors have contributed in some way to this season and a lot of them for multiple years.
“First game was competitive and a lot of fun. It sucks to honor them and then we come out and lay an egg against Staley, which is a really good team. There’s nothing for them to hang their heads about career wise.”
One look at the final stats for Neosho and Jefferson City reveals that both the Wildcats and the Jays left six runners behind.
However, on a closer look, it should be noted Neosho left four runners at third base … in a game decided by one run.
Jefferson City leadoff man Tyler Bise sparked the Jays with two hits, a pair of runs scored, and three RBI, with a double and a home run for his two hits. Jefferson City finished with five hits against Neosho pitchers Selig and Cole Seward, but nearly all of them seemed to produce runs.
In the fourth, Jefferson City broke the scoreboard stalemate with a Dawson Schueman two-out RBI single. In the fifth, Bise hit a solo home run.
Jefferson City struck for three runs in the seventh against Seward, a half-inning that started badly for the Wildcats after Seward walked Schueman. A Neosho error created two runners aboard with no outs for Bise and Bise brought home two with a double. Bise stole third and then scored on an error.
Selig took the loss, his first of the season, and he allowed two runs (both earned) on four hits over six innings. He struck out three and walked three in another solid workmanlike performance for the Neosho senior. Selig finished with exactly 100 pitches.
Meanwhile, Neosho had a long hard time battling against Jefferson City starter Joseph Travis, who sometimes proved overpowering for the Wildcats, reflected by the 11 strikeouts Travis recorded over 6 1/3 innings.
Then, Neosho figured it out.
Three different Jefferson City pitchers — Travis and relievers Cade Galbraith and Blake Terry — had to pick up outs in the seventh, but the Jays got the job done.
Travis started the Neosho seventh by hitting Winchester with a pitch. On a two-strike pitch, Kelley connected on a single and the Wildcats had runners on the corners. Mason Ray put the ball in play and reached on an error, which scored Winchester and advanced Kelley to third after he stole second earlier during Ray’s at-bat. Cook and Kaden King hit RBI singles and Neosho scored another run on a Jefferson City error.
With tying run Moreland at third and winning run King at second, A.C. Marion fouled out and Tre Letts struck out looking to end the game.
In the final game of the day, Staley plated one run in the first, third, and fourth innings, then went crazy with six in both the second and the fifth. Meanwhile, Neosho managed only a single hit against Staley pitchers Dane Carter and Dylan Crumley.
The Wildcats gave the start to Kelley and the Falcons roughed up No. 5 for nine runs (seven earned) on five hits over 3 1/3 innings. Kelley walked four and struck out one.
Neosho’s only hit came in the form of a Cook double.
“Gavin’s a kid that we know has a good arm,” Powers said. “We wanted to see what he could do against some really good competition. He struggled out there and put us in a hole. I think it got into our heads that we were done. You know, it’s one of those things where we’re not a bad baseball team. We’re the No. 2 seed in our district and we’ve competed really well against some quality teams. We just had a very bad game and we didn’t compete very well. You’ve got to credit Staley, they’re very tough. We’ve got to put this one behind us and then hopefully get on a winning streak before district play starts.”
Weather permitting, Neosho closes out regular season play Wednesday on the road against Carl Junction and Thursday at home against Newton County rival East Newton.
The Wildcats, as Powers mentioned above, earned the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Class 5, District 12 tournament and the Wildcats hope to carry some momentum into postseason competition.
“It was up in the air,” Powers said. “I thought we could have gone from two to four. Think what helped is that we’ve been competitive against good teams like Nixa and Ozark and beating Helias (Catholic) helped a bit. A lot of us had two wins in the district and we’re just fortunate teams in the area had enough respect for us to give us that two seed.”