REPUBLIC — The Neosho Lady Wildcats entered the postseason having won 10 of their 12 previous games to go from a 5-7 record to a 15-9 mark over a couple weeks of play.

The Lady Wildcats bore very little resemblance to the team over the majority of the last couple weeks and unfortunately, Wednesday night was not the best time for such an occurrence.

Willard freshman Sydnie Fletcher pitched a two-hitter and the Lady Tigers took advantage of a pair of Neosho errors for a 3-0 victory in the Class 4, District 11 tournament.

Neosho finished with a 15-10 overall record and the 15 wins this season are the best for the Lady Wildcats since a 15-win season in 2011. That was also Neosho’s most recent winning season.

In the end, though, Neosho slid back from last season, as the Lady Wildcats reached the Class 4, District 11 championship game and finished district runner-up.

Neosho seniors Amber Shepeard, Taylor Baker, and Breanna Slavens each played their final high school softball games.

Mikayla Long and Shepeard had Neosho’s lone hits against the freshman pitcher. Long began the fifth with a double to left-center and Shepeard found room in the sixth for an one-out single. Both runners — Neosho’s only runners in the contest — would be stranded in scoring position.

Otherwise, it would be tough sledding for the Lady Wildcats against Fletcher.
Fletcher threw 48 strikes in 71 pitches and she did not walk or hit a Neosho batter. Her defense supported her with 12 groundouts and six flyouts with no errors. Fletcher started out right with a strike on the first pitch against 16 of the 23 batters she faced. Fletcher struck out two over seven innings.

Neosho junior pitcher Kyla Daspit gave a performance good enough to win on most days. She allowed three runs (all unearned) on four hits over seven innings and she struck out six and walked two. Daspit threw a strike 64 times in 85 pitches, starting out with a strike against 24 of 29 hitters she faced, and her outs were nearly balanced with five groundouts, six strikeouts, and seven flyouts.

Neosho’s troubles started early. Daspit had leadoff hitter Savannah Yeargan down 0-2 in the count and after evening the count at 2, Daspit hit Yeargan with a pitch. Baylee Gastineau’s bunt set into motion a 2-0 lead, as both Yeargan and Gastineau managed to come around to score on Baker’s throwing error into right field.

Willard designated player Kailie Crews led off the fifth with a single to center and then Neosho first baseman Kayla Bach turned a dandy double play against Yeargan. With Crews in motion and headed into second, Yeargan hit a liner that Bach snagged right near the bag for an easy double play. This was Neosho’s best defensive play.

Unfortunately, for the Lady Wildcats, Daspit could not find the zone on four straight pitches after throwing a first pitch strike against Gastineau.

Coaches often say two-out walks are just as bad as leadoff walks.

That’s how it turned out for the Lady Wildcats in the fifth, as Crowder recruit Cheyenne Terry reached on an error and Ryley Ritchey connected on a RBI single to center.

Long ended the inning by charging on Sara Morris’ bunt, fielding it cleanly, and making a strong throw.

Willard took both games from Neosho this season.