JOPLIN — The Southwest Missouri All-Stars came away from the first day of the Premier Junior Championship with a pair of victories at Joplin High School.
In the first game Wednesday, the Southwest Missouri bats proved hotter than the excessive heat temps on the field turf as they pounded out 20 runs on 16 hits and two Building Champions Luangamath errors for a 20-5 run-rule victory.
In the second game, Southwest Missouri won a 2-1 thriller with a late rally and a strong pitching performance by Wyatt Hudson. Hudson allowed one run on four hits with seven strikeouts and one walk over seven innings.
Southwest Missouri returned to action Thursday evening against Stix North, who also posted a 2-0 record after the first day of pool play with a 7-3 victory over Building Champions Luangamath and a 2-1 victory over Oklahoma Fuel. Oklahoma Fuel lost both games Wednesday by the exact same score and in a similar fashion.
“I think it was a great (first) day,” Southwest Missouri All-Stars coach Kyle Wolf said. “You’re coming into this with a group of guys that really haven’t been around each other a lot and you’re not real sure what to expect. To come out and play well for two games and find a way to win two games, that’s a good day. Think that’s what everyone’s trying to do and that’s what we did.
“Two completely different games. Offensively, we just blew the doors off in the first game and we struggled and really had to fight through some things and execute baseball a little bit just to win that second game. Very proud of the effort. Defensively and offensively, we were solid all day. Carlos (Maturino) in the first game was very good for us and Wyatt was just outstanding in the second.”
Southwest Missouri scored both runs in the second game in the sixth. Titus Atkins and Drew Beyer hit back-to-back singles and Beyer’s brought home Atkins for a tie score after he advanced to second on a wild pitch. Gage Kelley reached on what proved to be a very costly error; Beyer stole second and then reached third on the error.
Cade Carlson executed the bunt perfectly and Beyer scored the go-ahead run.
Hudson put out Oklahoma Fuel in order in the seventh.
“That’s the sign of a group of competitive kids,” Wolf said. “They didn’t rest on it (the 20-5 victory). We did what we needed to do in the first one and they were searching for a way to win that (second) game. We were building momentum throughout the game. Felt like there were some opportunities that were going to come and it would just be a matter of capitalizing on it. We got that opportunity with baserunners on and scored the tying run, then Cade did a great job with the safety squeeze. Just good execution and gritty at-bats, and just proud of the effort.”
Southwest Missouri scored four runs in the first, two in the second, six in the third, and eight in the fourth en route to its 15-run victory in the opener.
Cale McCallister and Luke Benfield alone combined for six hits and nine RBI — McCallister and Benfield each had three hits and McCallister drove in five and Benfield four.
Devrin Weathers scored three runs from the leadoff spot and added two hits and two runs scored. Beyer scored two runs, collected two hits, and drove in two. Kelley scored three runs and Weston Durman two. Monty Mailes scored three runs and had two hits and RBI.
Benfield (a catcher) tripled twice, McCallister tripled and doubled, and Mailes, Weathers, Carlson, and Atkins each reached second once from hitting a double.
Maturino allowed five runs (one earned) on eight hits with four strikeouts and one walk over five.