Errors have cost Neosho in three of their four losses this season and the Neosho Wildcats committed six errors Monday in a 9-7 loss to Central Ozark Conference and Class 5, District 11 rival Joplin.
Neosho led Joplin 5-2 after four innings, then Joplin scored one run in the fifth and six in the sixth to build a 9-5 lead. Neosho plated two runs in the sixth to close out the scoring.
In that six-run sixth, Neosho senior Jared Stephens threw eight straight balls to start the inning, walking both Blake Dean and Grant Jones. Down in the count two strikes, Josh Wells came through with a single to center to load the bases, as Neosho center fielder Gage Kelley made a strong throw home to keep Dean at third.
Joplin’s hits kept on coming, with a Tyler Ledford two-run single, a Holden Ledford RBI single, and the Eagles took advantage of pair of throwing errors for a 8-5 lead. Maurice Auberry doubled and scored on a Dean sacrifice fly.
It took three Neosho pitchers to get out of the inning — Stephens left after three batters, Kaden King earned one out, and Mason Ray picked up two.
In the bottom of the sixth, Neosho loaded the bases after Tre Letts worked a walk and Payton Ezell and Ray both singled. Letts and Ezell came around to score, Ezell on a Cole Seward RBI single. The Wildcats left the bases loaded against Joplin reliever Jones.
Stephens took the loss and he allowed eight runs (six earned) on seven hits over five innings with six strikeouts and two walks. King allowed one run (earned) on one hit and one walk over his one-third of an inning. Ray gave up no runs on no hits and struck out one and walked two. Kelley pitched a scoreless seventh with one hit, no strikeouts, and no walks.
Offensively, all nine Neosho starters collected at least one hit, contributing to 13 hits overall — Seward, Weston Durman, Letts, and Ray each had two and King, A.C. Marion, Brett Cook, Stephens, and Ezell each had one. Most of the production came from the bottom of the order, as No. 6 Durman, No. 7 Letts, and No. 9 Ray combined for six hits, five runs scored, and four RBI.
Neosho dropped to 3-4 on the season with the loss Monday — the Wildcats now have losses against district opponents McDonald County and Joplin — and returned to action Tuesday against two-time defending Class 4 state champion Aurora, a game rescheduled from a rain out Saturday.
The Wildcats opened Thursday, weather permitting, in the Mickey Mantle Classic against Miami at Mickey Mantle Field in Commerce. Neosho plays its second pool game Friday against Sequoyah at Joe Becker Stadium.