CARTHAGE, Mo. — Carl Junction improved to 7-2 after opening up the 2021 Bill O’Dell Tournament with a back-and-forth 10-9 win over Neosho on Monday at Carl Lewton Stadium.
“Neosho is a good program,” Carl Junction coach Jake Stevenson said. “We knew looking through the scores in some of the games they’ve played, they’re a good baseball team and only going to continue to get better. I thought they really swung it well today, but I was impressed with the way our guys continued to answer back as we settled into the game. We got some big hits from guys when we needed it. It was a tough day to defend and pitch, but when we needed to, we got those outs.”
It was an offensive show, as both teams combined to score 19 runs on 24 hits, with seven total errors.
The run production from both teams was early and often, as the Wildcats (1-10) pushed across a run in the first after Lane Yost grounded into a double play, allowing River Brill to score. Brill led off the inning with a single.
Carl Junction answered right back with a three-run bottom of the first to take the lead. The inning was fueled by a two-run double to left by Dylan Eck.
Neosho’s Eli Zar came up with a one-out single in the second before coming around later in the inning to score on an errant pickoff throw by the Bulldogs to trim the deficit to 3-2.
The Wildcats took their first lead of the game in the top of the third after scoring four runs on four hits. Brett Slavens walked to lead off the inning and later came around to score on a wild pitch to tie the game. With two outs and a runner on second, Wyatt Keplar tripled to left-center field to score the go-ahead run in Yost before touching home shortly after on a wild pitch to give Neosho a 5-3 advantage. Wyatt Shadwick doubled to left field later in the inning to plate another Neosho run and move the margin to three.
“I think playing the tough competition early is starting to help us because we are picking up breaking balls a little better and we are in hitters’ counts, we are taking aggressive hacks,” Neosho coach Danny Powers said about his team’s offensive approach. “Instead of hitting weak ground balls of weak fly balls, now we are starting to see the ball shoot the gap a little more with some power.”
The seesaw affair continued in the last of the fourth inning when Carson Johnson doubled to right-center to score Jordan Woodruff and Cole Stewart, cutting Neosho’s lead to 6-5. Two batters later, Noah Southern connected for a two-run home run to left field to give the Bulldogs the lead, 7-6.
“I think our guys had good approaches in the box and looked comfortable,” Stevenson said. “On days like today, you have to outscore your opponent. We were lucky enough to do that today.”
In need of a response, the Wildcats tied the game up in the top of the fifth when Ryan Cargile, who led off with a walk, scored from second on a throwing error by the Bulldogs, allowing Flynn to reach base safely. Shadwick ripped a ball to the gap in left-center for a go-ahead triple to cap the top of the fifth.
“I think our kids did a good job of battling back and putting ourselves in position again with the lead late,” Powers said. “Today, I just don’t think our defense helped too much. It wasn’t awful, but it was enough to give CJ extra at-bats and make our pitchers throw extra pitches. Against good teams, you can’t give them too many extra opportunities.”
With runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the sixth, Carl Junction’s Alex Baker delivered the final big blow of the game with a two-run single to left, scoring Drew Beyer and Southern, to send Carl Junction to a 10-9 lead and eventual win.
“Alex is an even-keeled guy,” Stevenson said. “You know the mindset when he is in the box is in the right spot. He is a high-character kid, so I am happy for him. A lot of our guys came up in some big spots. It was good to see that. Hopefully we can carry that over and continue to play well.”
IN THE BOX
Eck led Carl Junction with three hits, including two doubles, two RBI and a run scored. Baker went 2-for-3 with a team-high three RBI and a run scored. Southern had a home run, two RBI and two runs scored. Johnson had two hits, including a double, two RBI and two runs scored.
Shadwick led Neosho with two hits, a double and a triple, and a team-high two RBI. Keplar, Zar and Flynn each had two hits
ON THE MOUND
Johnson earned the win for CJ after allowing three runs, one earned, on six hits, a walk and six strikeouts in 4 1/3 relief innings. Eck started and allowed six runs, five earned, on six hits, two walks and four strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings.
Yost started and took a no-decision after surrendering eight runs, six earned, on nine hits, a walk and two strikeouts in five innings. Brill took the loss after allowing two runs on three hits in one inning of work.
Neosho battles Nevada at 4:30 p.m., while Carl Junction takes on Mount Vernon at 7 p.m. on the second day of the Bill O’Dell Tournament.