It was a special day at Joe Becker Stadium on Friday as the Joplin Outlaws returned to the field for the first time in more than a year to open the 2021 MINK League schedule with a matchup against the Des Moines Peak Prospects.
“This one is very special,” Joplin Outlaws President and General Manager Mark Rains said. “I’m excited. People are ready for baseball. People are ready to get out and get back to normalcy.”
“These boys have good size,” Rains continued about his outlook for the Outlaws this year. “They are tall and very athletic. We’ve got some really good pitchers. I am thinking this is going to be a great season.”
It is the 13th year in charge of the Outlaws for Rains, but only his 12th opening day. Of course, the reason being last season was canceled because of the COVID 19 pandemic. Rains was thrilled to be able to provide summer baseball for the community once again.
“This should be a huge day for the community,” Rains said. “It’s cheap entertainment. Come out here, enjoy the kids and enjoy the game. Everybody ought to be out here. This is Joplin’s team.”
As for the action on the diamond, Des Moines took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third before the Outlaws trimmed the deficit in half with a run in the bottom of the third. Joplin struck for two runs in the bottom of the fourth and held the Prospects off the scoreboard through the final six innings to earn the win.
“That was exciting, and we had to do it in comeback fashion,” first-year Joplin manager Chris Dawson said. “We answered when they put runs on the board, so that was good to see. Our pitchers followed the script. We didn’t have to deviate from what we do with those guys. … It was a good team win.”
“I can’t thank these fans enough because this was electric,” Dawson said about managing in his debut with the Outlaws. “I mean, 0-2 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and we got the crowd going. There is nothing like it. If we can have crowds like this every home game, it would be phenomenal. The whole atmosphere tonight was outstanding and was exactly what I wanted it to be. I hope we can continue to have that this summer.”
Des Moines brokes a scoreless tie with a two-out rally in the top of the third inning. Nate Jessell got the scoring started for the Prospects after singling up the middle with runners on first and second to plate Trevor Dooley. Des Moines pushed the lead to 2-0 later in the inning after Adam Axtell reached on an infield hit up the middle to score another run.
Joplin reached the scoreboard and cut the lead in half in the bottom of the third. Brandon Ulmer led off the frame with a line-drive double to right field before coming around to score later in the inning on a groundout from Logan Cline. The Outlaws looked to tie the game on a single up the middle by Cade Lott with runners on first and second, but Ethan Ellis was thrown out at third before Lukas White touched home for the final out of the frame.
“That was huge,” Dawson said about his team answering back right away on the scoreboard. “I told the guys in our first team meeting that I was going to run us into outs. That’s on me sending him from first to third, but I told them I was going to run them into outs and not apologize for it. They were able to pick me up the next inning. It was good to see.”
The Outlaws didn’t wait long to get the offense going again, scoring twice in the bottom of the fourth to take their first lead of the game, 3-2, over the Prospects. Lawson Faria led off the inning with a walk before Cam Pfafman followed with a single. Both runners moved into scoring position on a double steal before Jack Mettam singled up the middle to score both runners for a 3-2 lead.
“Hats off to our guys at the plate,” Dawson said. “They put together some great at-bats, battled and capitalized on balls over the plate.”
ON THE MOUND
Cale McCallister, a Missouri Southern Lion, earned the start for the Outlaws and took a no-decision after allowing two runs on six hits, a walk and five strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings. Christian DeJesus earned the win in relief after blanking the Prospects over two innings, allowing two hits, walking two and striking out four. Clayton Saporito pitched 2 1/3 scoreless relief innings on two hits and two strikeouts. Justin Schrader earned the save with two strikeouts in a perfect ninth inning relief appearance.
Noah Stober took the loss for Des Moines after allowing three runs on four hits and three walks in three innings.
AT THE PLATE
Mettam and White led Joplin with two hits each, with Mettam adding two RBI. Cline had one hit and an RBI, while Ulmer doubled and scored a run.
Anthony Toureallus led the Prospects with three hits, including a double, and a run scored. Jessel had two hits and an RBI.
Joplin and Des Moines square off for Game 2 with a 7 p.m. matchup on Saturday at Joe Becker Stadium.