The Neosho Wildcats earned four selections when the Central Ozark Conference Large released its all-conference teams.

The Neosho Wildcats earned four selections when the Central Ozark Conference Large released its all-conference teams.
Sophomore outfielder Clint Winchester earned unanimous first team, while junior Colton Marion made first team on the infield. Senior pitcher Bryce Slavens and senior outfielder McHill Manuel each made second team.
The Wildcats, under first-year head coach Danny Powers, finished their season 16-13, highlighted by consecutive 11-inning wins over Class 5, District 12 champion Webb City and Class 5’s No. 1-ranked Staley.
Neosho’s season ended on a 4-3 loss in the district final against Webb City.
“It is a tough way (to end the season),” Powers said after the game. “With a new coach and being relatively young, just having a couple seniors who played meaningful innings on the year, our kids battled. We could have possibly folded when we started 0-3 and 1-4, and our schedule didn’t get any easier after that, but we rattled off some wins and beat some very good baseball teams. We showed that we can play with just about anybody in the area and even the state.
“We would have liked for the end result to have gone differently, but our kids played hard. It’s tough to lose on such a bizarre set of circumstances in this game, but they have nothing to hand their heads about and they just have to remember the frustration here and use that as motivation for next season.”
Winchester started the season batting at the top of the Neosho order and then moved into the middle of the lineup after Marion’s health improved. Marion injured his ankle during practice before the season.
One of only two sophomores and the only unanimous sophomore on the first team, Winchester had three hits and three RBI in the 18-8 win over East Newton, three hits in the 9-8 win over Staley, three hits in the 9-2 loss to Carl Junction, two hits and two RBI in the 10-9 loss to Ozark, four hits in the 18-6 win over Waynesville, two hits and two RBI in the 12-4 win over Miami, three RBI against Riverton, two hits in the 8-4 win over McDonald County and three hits in the 13-0 win over Springfield Central. Winchester also hit a solo home run in the loss to Joplin.
The other sophomore named to the first team was Ozark pitcher Forrest Barnes.
Marion scored both runs in the 2-1 win over Webb City, had three hits and three RBI in the win over East Newton, three hits in the 7-6 loss to Nixa, two hits in the 4-2 win over Republic, four hits against Carl Junction, three RBI in the win against Waynesville, two hits in the 7-1 win over Sullivan, two hits in a 3-2 loss to Fort Gibson, four RBI against McDonald County and two RBI against Joplin.
As Marion’s health improved over the course of the season, the Wildcats moved him into the leadoff spot and this move certainly benefited Neosho’s offense, especially whenever Marion reached base with No. 2 Marcus Crawford ready to drive him in with a groundout, a sacrifice fly or a hit.
“I can’t think of the last game that he hasn’t led off an inning, stolen second or third or both and Marcus drove him in,” Powers said after the 3-2 win over Carthage in the Class 5, District 12 tournament. “We were just hoping that he would be able to do that and he came up leading off the inning. I had a lot of confidence he would find his way on, whether it was a walk or a hit. It doesn’t matter whether he’s down in the count or not, we have a lot of confidence in him. A lot of maturity, he doesn’t try and do too much, pokes up the middle, steals second, gets to third base and Marcus did what he’s done all year, which is drive him in.”
Marion led off the sixth against Carthage with a single on two strikes, stole second, advanced to third on an errant throw and scored on a Crawford sacrifice fly.
Marion took repeat first team honors from his sophomore campaign.
Slavens was the No. 1 arm Neosho relied on all season and he delivered his best performance in that district semifinal win over Carthage. He pitched a two-hitter and came through with 15 strikeouts balanced against three walks.
“That’s by far the best game I’ve seen him throw all year,” Powers said. “It was a great day to have it. We knew it was going to be a tough day to hit, but the unfortunate part for Carthage was they were having trouble putting the ball into play on him. Fifteen strikeouts, three walks didn’t help.”
Before his final start against Carthage, Slavens owned a 7-3 record with a 1.96 ERA and 58 strikeouts balanced against 22 walks over 53 2/3 innings.
Manuel had three hits and three RBI against Springfield Central, two hits against McDonald County, two hits against Riverton, three hits and three RBI against Miami, two RBI against Sullivan, three RBI against Waynesville, two hits and two RBI in a 4-3 win over Willard and three hits against East Newton.
In a Class 5 sectional game Tuesday, Nixa blanked Webb City 4-0 to move into the state quarterfinals. The Eagles wait on the winner of today’s Jefferson City (25-6) and Willard (23-10) contest.
Willard and Nixa are the last two teams alive from the COC Large, since both Ozark and Branson were knocked off in the Class 5, District 11 semis, the former defeated 1-0 by Nixa.
Ozark’s Clayton Engel and Branson’s Chad Reusch shared conference player of the year honors, while top pitching honors went to Willard’s Kyle Smith.

ALL-COC LARGE BASEBALL
Co-Players of the Year
Clayton Engel, Ozark
Chad Reusch, Branson

Pitcher of the Year
Kyle Smith, Willard

FIRST TEAM
Pitcher
Chandler Coates, Republic (U)
Kyle Smith, Willard (U)
Luke Hauswirth, Nixa
Forrest Barnes, Ozark

Catcher
Noah Tucker, Ozark (U)
Jordan Stevens, Willard (U)

Infield
Calem Nutting, Webb City (U)
Cole Smith, Ozark (U)
Clayton Engel, Ozark
Colton Marion, Neosho
Channing Mickey, Webb City
Regan Butterworth, Republic

Outfield
Clint Winchester, Neosho (U)
Dalton Morrow, Willard (U)
Chad Reusch, Branson (U)

Utility
Matthew Patton, Carthage (U)

SECOND TEAM
Pitcher
Parker Hanks, Ozark
Bryce Slavens, Neosho
Bryce Burtless, Branson
Jansen McQuerter, Republic

Infield
Dack Sanborn, Webb City
Andrew Greek, Webb City
Tanner Wallace, Ozark
Hunter Whiteley, Willard

Outfield
Hayden Gibson, Branson
Gavin Huke, Carthage
McHill Manuel, Neosho