Joplin coach Kyle Wolf faced off against longtime colleague and friend on Wednesday—Mike Watt, the legendary head coach for St. Mary’s Colgan baseball.
Wolf spent 12 seasons as an assistant to Watt on the Panthers’ coaching staff prior to taking the head coaching job at Joplin. He was a member of the Panthers’ staff for nine of Coach Watt’s 16 state titles.
The Eagles finished with the upper hand following a 10-8 win over the Panthers in the teams’ first meeting since Wolf joined Joplin.
Joplin took the initial lead with two runs in the first before Colgan put the first big inning together with a five-run top of the third. The Eagles answered right back with a crooked number of their own, regaining the lead, 6-5, after touching home four times in the bottom half of the third. Colgan tied the game up with a run in the fifth before Joplin again answered quickly in the bottom half with a two-out tally to take the 7-6 advantage. The Eagles scored three insurance runs in the sixth and held off the Panthers in the seventh to preserve the win.
“That game was exactly what I expected that game to be,” Wolf said. “We put the two runs up early, which I felt good about. I knew they were going to climb back in it with a team of their pedigree. I was proud of our guys for finding a way to score and take the lead right back. I think that was huge. I think it gave us some confidence and maybe took a little away from them.
“We have to do a better job of bringing good energy day to day. We had to battle through it just a little bit. We have to lock in from the start and stay locked in.”
After going 3-1 in the Tiger/Zebra Classic over the weekend in Oklahoma, the win over Colgan hikes Joplin’s record to 6-1 to start the season.
“We just have to keep getting better,” Wolf said. “We have to keep playing hard and we have to keep having a good mentality with our team and make sure we keep playing for one another.”
ON THE MOUND
Kirk Chandler started and earned the win after allowing eight runs, five earned, on 10 hits, a walk and five strikeouts on 104 pitches in 6 2/3 innings. Josh Harryman came in and surrendered one hit, but needed just three pitches to record the final out.
“Kirk threw pretty well aside for one pitch that he kind of left up,” Wolf said. “Other than that, their guys battled tough and put some bats on some balls. Kirk battled tough and found a way to get outs.”
Lucas McKain started and took a no-decision after allowing two runs on three hits, a walk and a strikeout in two innings. Caleb Hamilton allowed three runs, two earned, on three walks without recording an out in relief. Gianni Piccini was saddled with the loss after allowing five runs, three earned, on seven hits, two walks and two strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings of relief. Kannon Keller pitched 2/3 of a scoreless inning, striking out both batters he faced.
Joplin’s Kohl Cooper brought home the first run of the game when he doubled to right-center with one out in the bottom of the first inning to plate Bodee Carlson, who singled earlier in the frame. Cooper advanced to third on a Colgan error before coming around to score on an RBI groundout from David Fiscus to make the score 2-0.
“When you can get up early, it lets your hitters relax a little bit and frees some things up that we can do on the bases,” Wolf said. “It forces (the other team) to have to make plays. … Anytime you score first in a game, you give yourself a pretty good chance to win that game. I think that’s huge, and we need to continue to do that.”
Colgan broke through in the top of the third, scoring five runs on six hits to take a 5-2 advantage. Janko Kalan brought home Blaise Dawson and Piccini with a two-run single to right before Keller doubled home a pair of runs two batters later to give Colgan a 4-2 lead. Cooper Simmons wrapped the inning’s scoring after bringing home Keller with an RBI groundout.
Joplin wasted little time answering back, pushing across four runs in the bottom half of the third to regain the momentum.
“We came out, had a good approach and didn’t chase balls out of the zone,” Wolf said. “We gave ourselves a chance to get to first base, and if you keep the line moving, eventually, I feel like we are going to come up with a hit with a guy in scoring position. Credit to those guys for not pressing when we got down. … We found a way to get on base, we got some hits and scored some runs.”
The first three Eagle batters walked to load the bases before Alex Curry singled to right field to bring home a run. Ethan Guilford followed with an RBI groundout, with a throwing error by the Panthers allowing a second run to score on the play to tie the game at 5-5. Kyler Stokes brought home the go-ahead run later in the inning with a single to center to score Guilford.
Joplin was forced to rally again after SMC’s Kaden Vogel singled home a run with two outs in the top of the fifth to tie the game back up at 6s.
Curry beat out an infield hit to short to lead off the bottom of the fifth before being lifted for a pinch runner. Later in the inning with two outs, Stokes tripled off the wall in left field to bring home the go-ahead run.
“The thing with Alex is he is a big ol’ dude, but he surprises you with his athleticism,” Wolf said. “The diving play he had at first—that’s a pretty big guy making an athletic play. He’s stolen two bases this year. He is going to take advantage of things when they are in front of him.
“Kyler, early in the season, was pressing a little bit and was trying to do too much. I think he is finding his identity just a little bit. … Really since Saturday down in Oklahoma, he has swung the bat really well for us. I am really proud of him for making the adjustment and doing the things he needs to do at the plate to give himself success.”
The Eagles’ three-run sixth inning was highlighted by an RBI double from Cooper, a run-scoring single from Brady Mailes and a bases-loaded walk by Guilford to stake Joplin to a 10-6 lead.
Colgan scored a two-out run on a Joplin error before Vogel singled home Simmons to trim the lead to 10-8. Harryman finished the game by inducing a groundout.
IN THE BOX
Cooper led Joplin at the plate with a 3-for-3 game, including two doubles. He had a team-high three runs scored and drove in two. Curry and Stokes each had two hits, with Stokes tripling. Stokes also drove in two.
Simmons led Colgan with three hits in four at-bats, scoring once and driving in one. McKain doubled and scored a run while finishing 2-for-3 at the plate. Vogel had two hits and two RBI. Keller and Dawson doubled.
Joplin travels to Neosho for a 4:30 p.m. matchup on Thursday.