Almost from the start Tuesday, you could tell there was something different about the Neosho Wildcats, something that ran counterbalance with a Wildcat squad that entered Tuesday’s Central Ozark Conference Large opener against Nixa on a five-game winning streak.

Almost from the start Tuesday, you could tell there was something different about the Neosho Wildcats, something that ran counterbalance with a Wildcat squad that entered Tuesday’s Central Ozark Conference Large opener against Nixa on a five-game winning streak.
For example, assistant coach Eric Hughes nearly wore out his voice by yelling at the dugout for not being alive and into the game.
Nixa took advantage of multiple Neosho miscues and Nixa’s Payton Hanah threw a five-hit gem during a 4-1 win for the Eagles at Roy B. Shaver Stadium.
“I thought we came out flat,” Neosho head coach Danny Powers said. “It felt like we wanted to just go through the motions. Our dugout was dead silent today. Not a whole lot of energy. Not a lot of intensity. Not sure why. Coming off a good weekend, where we jumped out early on some teams. Felt like we played a little tight today and we can’t do that.”
Nixa scored its first three runs with one in the second and two in the third, helped out by three Neosho errors.
Chandler Oimsted reached on an error in the second and later scored with the direct assistance of two more errors.
Brett Hammit and Jack Sanders worked back-to-back walks in the third and both Hammit and pinch runner Ryan Cram later scored in the inning. The Eagles executed a double steal with Hammit and Cram for one run and then Cram scored on a Ryan Murphy single.
Neosho called on senior Colton Marion in that third and he picked up the final two outs of the third. Marion stayed on in relief and he kept Nixa close enough on the scoreboard … if the Wildcats could have pieced together just one big inning offensively.
“We try not to use him (Marion) a whole lot,” Powers said, “but in those situations where Jake (Jacob Galbraith) had some tenderness in his elbow, we needed Colton to keep us in the game and eat up a lot of innings because we have a tough week coming up. He had good stuff today and competed. He kept us in the game.
“In fact, we probably gave them a couple runs with mental mistakes, diving for a ball in center field, not making a tag when we’re throwing through on a first and third. They got a couple cheap ones. If it’s 3-1 or 2-1 in the late innings, maybe they play a little tighter and maybe some things happen. We made too many mistakes today and they didn’t. They deserved it today.”
Clint Winchester and Kaleb Moreland, batting in the No. 7 and No. 8 spots in the Neosho order, combined to have four of the Wildcats’ five hits against Hanah.
Winchester singled leading off the third and Moreland followed with a single. Both runners advanced on a passed ball, but Winchester was picked off on a controversial call at third and then Marion popped out to first to end the inning.
In the fifth, Winchester hit an one-out double and scored on a Moreland single. The Eagles, however, turned an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play to avoid further scoreboard damage.
Winchester’s and Moreland’s performances at the plate were highlights Tuesday.
“They’re coming around in that 7- and 8-hole,” Powers said. “Moreland’s been so hot, I want to keep him in that 8-hole because he’s been doing such a great job. Clint started out slow, but he’s been coming around, hitting the sticks. You’ve got to credit their kid. He threw well, a lot of first pitch strikes and unfortunately, we weren’t disciplined enough to take some pitches, let the count get a little deeper and trust ourselves with two strikes.”
Hanah surrendered no walks or hit batters, and the Eagles committed just one error.
Mantle Classic MVP Marcus Crawford legged out an infield single to start the fourth and then he stole second and third before the Wildcats called on courtesy runner Mason Ray for their starting catcher. Hanah earned a strikeout and a pair of groundouts to retire the side.
Hank Selig reached on a two-out error in the sixth, but Austin Wren flied out to center.
Hanah retired the side in order in the seventh, picking up two of his five strikeouts.
Neosho dropped to 8-4 overall and 0-1 in the COC Large, with Republic coming to Roy Shaver on Thursday, weather permitting, for another conference clash. The Wildcats are slated to take on Webb City on Friday, in a game that’s already been postponed twice due to rainy weather.