COMMERCE, Okla. — The Neosho Wildcats finished second place in the Mickey Mantle Classic for the third time in five Triple Crown Division championship game appearances after their 5-3 loss in six innings Saturday against the Grove Ridgerunners at Mickey Mantle Field.
Neosho committed five errors in the championship game and Grove made no miscues, and this made a huge difference in the final outcome. The Wildcats also had multiple calls go against them. Officials enforced the two-hour time limit, hence the six innings.
Gage Kelley took the loss, allowing four runs (two earned) on five hits with five strikeouts and two walks over 3 2/3 innings. Jared Stephens finished up and he allowed one run (unearned) on one hit with four strikeouts and two walks over 2 1/3 innings.
Offensively, Tre Letts — who homered Thursday at Mantle Field — and Stephens each doubled and drove in a run, highlighting the Wildcats’ six hits on the day. Kaden King led Neosho with a pair of hits and Weston Durman and A.C. Marion each had one.
Toby Cearley, Jack Gentry, Chase Coughran, Chat Hayes, Layne Rutherford, and Logan Engles picked up individual hits for the Ridgerunners.
Grove opened the scoring with two runs in the second and then added single runs three straight innings from the third through the fifth. Neosho plated single runs in the second, fourth, and fifth.
Both teams missed several opportunities — officially with nine (Neosho) and eight (Grove) runners left behind — and the game saw multiple runners caught in rundown situations or thrown out.
Neosho dropped to 5-6 overall and the Wildcats have two daunting Central Ozark Conference road contests ahead of them this week, district foe Republic on Tuesday and state-ranked Willard on Thursday. The Tigers of Willard are 11-2 overall entering their game Tuesday against Nixa — Willard’s only losses are by one run, Hickman 4-3 and Bartlesville 9-8.
Grove, meanwhile, improved to 17-3 on the season.
Neosho reached the championship game after pool play victories against Sequoyah 12-0 on Friday and Miami 5-1 on Thursday.
In the 12-0 victory, Neosho plated two runs in the first and five each in the second and third for the run-rule victory. Durman pitched an abbreviated no-hitter.
Brett Cook and Stephens each came through with a pair of hits and a pair of RBI, Durman scored three and drove in two runs, and every time Marion touched a bat, it seemed that Neosho scored at least one run, considering Marion went officially 1 for 1 with four RBI. Kelley and Mason Ray both scored two runs, as Ray worked a pair of walks from his spot at the bottom of the order.
Durman struck out four and walked one, and finished with 37 pitches in his three innings of work.
It was quite the day for Ray on Thursday and he dogged the Wardogs of Miami.
On the mound, Ray tossed a three-hitter and he allowed one run (earned) over six innings with eight strikeouts and two walks. Ray threw 87 pitches, 56 for strikes.
At the plate, Ray had a pair of hits and a pair of RBI.
The only mark against Ray on Thursday was a caught stealing.
Letts homered and Cook doubled to highlight the Wildcats’ seven hits.