NEOSHO, Mo. — After a shaky top of the first inning, Neosho settled in on the way to a 12-2 five-inning win over Monett behind a historical first-career start for freshman Carleigh Kinnaird to open the season on the brand new turf on Monday at the Neosho Athletic Complex.
Monett (0-1) started out with the momentum, scoring twice in the top of the first inning thanks in large part to two walks and a pair of throwing errors. Neosho (1-0) responded quickly, scoring four times in the bottom half to take the lead. The Wildcats plated four more runs in the second inning before adding two runs in each of the third and fourth innings to end the game via run rule.
“I didn’t think we looked clean,” Neosho coach Catie Cummins said. “I realize it is the first game on a new field, but to me that kind of sounds like excuses. But, we settled in. The great news is once we got out of that first inning, playing tight and stuff, we settled in and took care of business.
“I thought our defense, outside of the first inning, looked good and pitching was much improved. And we got down two runs and our offense didn’t look concerned at all. We just went up there and scored four runs and felt like we were in control.”
IN THE CIRCLE
Kinnaird had a memorable start to her varsity softball career, earning the win in the circle for the Wildcats after allowing two unearned runs over five no-hit innings of work. She walked two and struck out six.
“The errors at third and at catcher are players we don’t frequently see errors from,” Cummins said. “So for her to settle in and say, ‘I am going to throw strikes. They are going to get outs. We’re going to be OK. If we give up a couple of runs, that’s fine because we have a good enough offense that we’ll bounce back.’ That is a conversation Coach (Jakki) Schneider had with her. She listened and took care of business, getting a lot of ground ball (outs) today.
“Giving (Carleigh) those early runs allowed her to settle down. She will learn and be able to do that even when we are down in games. But, I thought that was huge to take the pressure off of her and the defense and our hitters later in the game.”
Abby Inman took the loss for Monett after allowing 12 runs, 10 earned, on 15 hits and two walks.
AT THE PLATE
Lili Graue led the Wildcats at the plate with three hits, a walk and three runs scored. Kaitlyn Killion doubled for one of her two hits, two RBI and scored twice. Grace Johnson doubled, had two hits, scored a run and drove in one, while Baylie Bowers had two hits and scored twice. Maelynn Garrett had two hits and drove in two. Abbie Carpenter, Maddie Carpenter and McKaylie Forrest also doubled in the win.
“We talk a lot about scoring early and often,” Cummins said. “While we didn’t score first today, we did score early and we scored every inning. You can’t ask for much more. … I felt like we had some good at-bats and were able to try a few things—some steals, some bunting, hit and run, that kind of stuff. So I was pleased with what we were able to do today.”
Neosho showed signs of rust in the top of the first inning after a pair of throwing errors coupled with two walks in the inning allowed Monett to take a 2-0 lead without recording a hit.
The Wildcats responded in the last of the first inning, taking advantage of an error by Monett with the bases loaded to allow the first run to score. Alivia Campbell followed with an RBI single to tie the game at 2-2 before Johnson followed with another RBI single to give Neosho a 3-2 advantage. Garrett made it three straight run-scoring singles in the next at-bat to put Neosho up two.
Neosho used three run-scoring doubles in the second inning to double its output and build an 8-2 lead. Abbie Carpenter started the scoring off with a two-run double to left before Forrest doubled to center to plate a run. Maddie Carpenter wrapped the scoring with an RBI double to left.
Killion doubled home two runs on a line drive to center field in the fourth inning to push the lead to 10.
Neosho takes part in the Paige Neal/Christina Freeman Invitational softball tournament hosted by Joplin this weekend.