They say pitching and defense wins games, and the Joplin Outlaws proved that to be true on Saturday in a 5-1 victory over Des Moines at Joe Becker Stadium to start the season off 2-0.
Joplin took the early advantage with a run scoring on the long ball in the second inning before pushing across single tallies in the fourth and fifth innings for insurance. The Outlaws made timely plays on defense to keep Des Moines off the scoreboard until the seventh when the Prospects crossed home for the first time. Des Moines threatened in the eighth but to no avail. Joplin added two more runs in the bottom of the eighth to seal the win.
“We have some good defenders and they’ve played really well,” Joplin manager Chris Dawson said. “When you can play defense like that, you are going to keep yourself in a lot of ball games. If we keep doing that day in and day out, we are going to be OK.”
ON THE MOUND
Jeremiah Kennedy, a Missouri Southern State Lion, earned the start and took the no-decision after holding Des Moines scoreless over four innings. He allowed three hits, walked three and struck out one. Masayuki Maruhashi earned the win after pitching two scoreless innings in relief without allowing a hit. He walked one and struck out one. Jack O’Brien allowed one run on four hits with five strikeouts in two relief innings. Reese Weaks finished the game out with one walk and two strikeouts in a scoreless ninth.
Joplin broke through on the scoreboard in the bottom half of the second inning when Calen Protaskey launched a one-out solo home run to left to give the Outlaws the early momentum.
“He has flashed that power in (batting practice) and that ball cleared the bleachers in left,” Dawson said of Protaskey’s homer. “That ball was touched and hit well. That was good to see because he is a young kid, a redshirt freshman at Iowa Western. For him to have that at-bat early in summer was big.”
The Prospects had eyes on tying the game up in the top of the third after advancing runners to second and third with one out, but Joplin right fielder Jeb Jenkins put that notion to rest after hauling in a shallow fly ball off the bat of Anthony Toureallus for the second out and gunning down Sam Nicolino at the plate on the attempted tag-up to end the inning.
“That was a missile,” Dawson said of Jenkins’ throw to home. “I am surprised (the runner) went. I thought with it being so shallow they were going to bluff. He went and Jeb put the throw right on the money. You can’t make a better throw than that.”
Joplin added an insurance run in the bottom of the fourth inning when Lawson Faria reached on an infield single up the middle to score Cade Lott, who singled up the middle earlier in the inning, to make the score 2-0.
The Outlaws pushed the lead to 3-0 in the last of the fifth after Ethan Lopez came around to score on an RBI single to left by Jared Toler. Lopez led off with a single and promptly stole second to get in scoring position.
“He can run and he had some good at-bats,” Dawson said of Lopez’s performance. “And the two plays he made in the outfield were phenomenal. Hats off to him.”
Des Moines got on the scoreboard in the top of the seventh inning when Bryce Hall singled up the middle to score Cade Reinerston, who doubled to lead off the inning. The Prospects had runners on the corners with two away later in the inning when Trevor Dooley hit a liner to the gap in right-center only for Lopez, who was roaming center field in the win, to make a diving grab to rob Dooley of a hit and an RBI while ending the threat to a standing ovation by the home crowd.
“I knew we were in a tight spot,” Lopez said. “Any guy could have made that play, but I just got lucky. I wanted it the most and as soon as I saw that ball hit, I knew I wasn’t going to let it drop. Getting hyped after hearing the fans cheer just keeps me going.”
Toureallus doubled to lead off the top of the eighth for Des Moines only for Joplin’s O’Brien to strike out the next three batters to end the final rally attempt by the Prospects.
Joplin added a pair of insurance runs in the last of the eighth to steal the momentum for good, making the score 5-1. With runners on second and third and two outs, Faria hit a chopper to third and reached base with the low throw getting away from the Des Moines first baseman to allow both runs to score.
IN THE BOX
Lopez had three hits and scored a run to lead Joplin at the plate. Toler had two hits, including a double, to go along with an RBI and a run scored. Lott had two hits and scored a run.
Joplin is back in action on Sunday with a matchup against St. Joe at 7 p.m. at Joe Becker Stadium.