WEBB CITY, Mo. — A stellar pitching performance, timely hitting and solid defense led the Joplin Eagles to a signature win.
Ethan Guilford dazzled on the mound, the visitors manufactured runs in four different frames and Joplin earned an 8-4 win over Webb City on Thursday in Central Ozark Conference baseball action at Chuck Barnes Field.
After his Eagles improved to 9-2 overall and 2-0 in the conference, Joplin coach Kyle Wolf noted Thursday’s outcome should be a confidence-builder for his squad.
“We all know that’s a really good baseball team in the other dugout,” Wolf said. “I felt like our kids played really hard. They executed in a lot of situations and we took advantage of some things when they were available. When we do those things, we can play a little bit, too.
“I’m hoping they understand that when we do the little things the right way, play hard and play for each other, we can be a really good baseball team,” Wolf added. “We still need to get better. But this should give them some confidence and hopefully help them understand their identity about what allows us to have success.”
The Cardinals, who fell to 10-2 overall and 0-1 in the COC, entered the game ranked third in Class 5 by the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association.
A junior right-hander, Guilford limited Webb City to four hits and one earned run while striking out six and walking seven in 6 1/3 innings.
“I feel great,” Guilford said. “They were 10-1 coming into this game and we knew as a team that we had to play well. I knew I had to pitch to the best of my ability and I feel like I did that. We just beat a team that’s really, really good. I think this will be a great confidence-booster for the team.”
Simply put, Guilford kept the Cardinals and their potentially-explosive offense off-balance for most of the contest. He threw 102 pitches and induced seven groundouts and five flyouts.
“My two-seamer was moving the most,” Guilford said. “I had a really good day with that. In some past outings, I’ve had some trouble controlling that, but my two-seamer was really working. The slider was working at times.”
It was Webb City’s lowest scoring output of the season to date.
“Ethan struggled at times with his breaking ball a little, but he kept fighting,” Wolf said. “Ethan’s a bulldog. He just continues to go out and challenge hitters. And I thought we were pretty good defensively overall behind him.”
Joplin committed two errors, with one coming on a throw back to the pitcher and the other coming in the bottom of the seventh.
Webb City had five hits and five errors.
Cardinals coach Flave Darnell noted that’s not exactly a recipe for success.
“Five hits and five errors won’t win you baseball games at all,” Darnell said. “They made us pay for any mistake we had. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do the same. We struggled a little bit on defense today. And it seemed like a hit seemed to follow after an error. That’s how baseball goes sometimes.”
Darnell also gave Guilford credit.
“You have to tip your hat to their pitcher,” Darnell said. “He made pitches when he needed to make pitches. He got out of jams. And they made some nice plays on defense.”
Webb City stranded the bases loaded in the bottom of the first, as Guilford maneuvered out of trouble.
The visitors pushed across a single tally in the top of the second. With two outs, Kirk Chandler reached on an error and charged home on Kyler Stokes’ RBI double to left.
The Cards stranded two more on-base in the second before the Eagles added a run in the third. Fielding Campbell singled and Bodee Carlson reached on an error, putting runners on the corners. A sacrifice fly from Kohl Cooper gave Joplin a two-run cushion.
Webb City got on the board in the third, as Matt Woodmansee walked before Shane Noel and Cole Gayman both singled to load the bases. After an out. Woodmansee scored from third on an error. But the Cardinals would do no further damage, as the Eagles turned an inning-ending 4-3 double play.
Cooper’s two-run single gave Joplin a 4-1 advantage in the fifth. Campbell and Carson Wampler both singled to start the inning off.
The Eagles extended their lead with four runs in the sixth, as Campbell delivered a run-scoring single before two runs crossed the plate after Carlson’s single and a Webb City error. Another miscue in the field later in the inning allowed Joplin to go up 8-1.
“Those were huge runs because they took the pressure off a little bit,” Wolf noted. “It maybe makes them press a little more. It gave us more breathing room. We were able to take advantage of their errors when they happened and that’s the important thing.”
In the bottom of the sixth, Aiden Brock drew a walk and later scored on Eric Fitch’s RBI single, trimming Webb City’s deficit to 8-2.
Guilford retired Treghan Parker to start the bottom of the seventh, but he walked Woodmansee. Wolf then went to the bullpen, with senior submariner Josh Harryman taking over on the mound.
Webb City plated two runs after an error, a sac fly by Gayman and an RBI double from Cooper Crouch. Harryman retired Brock to end the game.
NAMES & NUMBERS
The Eagles out-hit the Cardinals 10-5.
A senior right fielder, Cooper drove in three runs on one hit for the Eagles. A senior shortstop, Campbell went 3-for-4 and scored three runs from the leadoff spot.
No one had multiple hits for the Cardinals. A senior right fielder, Woodmansee scored two runs for Webb City.
A Missouri Southern recruit, Gayman took the loss. The senior right-hander surrendered two earned runs on six hits and struck out eight in five innings.
Eli Goddard and Crouch pitched one inning apiece. Goddard gave up one run on three hits, while Crouch, who has verbally committed to Crowder College, allowed one hit.
NOTE: Webb City held an official field dedication ceremony before the game in honor of the stadium’s recent upgrades.
Webb City plays at Nixa at noon on Saturday. Joplin is at Willard on Saturday for games against the host Tigers (9 a.m.) and Springfield Catholic (11).