By Matt Turer — email@example.com
Joplin, Mo. — Webb City’s home dominance over Willard must be a geographical thing.
A rain-saturated field in Webb City forced a move to Missouri Southern State University’s Warren Turner Field, but the new location made no difference for the Tigers, who have never won a game in Webb City.
After reaching extra innings thanks to a run-scoring passed ball, Chris Wallace secured Webb City’s 4-3 victory on a walk-off ground ball to first in the bottom of the ninth that scored Channing Mickey and handed Willard its first COC-Large loss of the season.
“I’m here to hit Wallace Specials,” Wallace said after the win. “It’s the way [my teammates] know me. They say it every time I get up [to bat].”
What’s a Wallace Special?
“A little dinker. And wherever it goes it goes,” he said. “It’s crazy. I don’t know how I do it. I amaze myself with those little things. Just, miracles happen.”
Wallace’s special dinker to first base pulled the Cardinals (15-5; 4-2) within a game of Willard (16-4; 5-1) for first in the conference with two games to play for each, the Cardinals against Nixa (5-10) and Carthage (7-10) and the Tigers against Republic (4-9) and Branson (10-9).
“We talk a lot about coming out and competing every day,” Webb City head coach Garry Highfill said. “Today they showed up at the park with a little different focus and mindset. If you can show up like that and compete like we competed today you’re going to win a lot of baseball games.”
Webb City celebrated the walk-off by mobbing Wallace at first base, a reaction that Willard head coach Scott McGee viewed as a sort of compliment to his program.
“We have never won at Webb. We’ve only beat Webb one time in the last 10 years. For them to act like it was the World Series speaks volumes about where our program is. That’s the way it is,” McGee said.
The stage was set for extras when Tanner Jones scored on a passed ball in the bottom of the seventh, a pitch that was Caleb Lasher’s last of the night for Willard.
Lasher tossed 6.1 innings, allowing three runs, two of which were earned, on six hits, striking out nine and issuing zero walks.
“I thought he threw the ball outstanding,” McGee said. “He commanded both sides of the plate. His off-speed pitches were good. He gave us a chance to win. I think of their four runs most of them came off little infield ground balls and errors.”
Webb City went up 1-0 in the first when Will Larson stole home while Mark Duley was getting thrown out attempting to steal second.
Willard pulled even 1-1 on an error off a Dakota Campbell ground ball that scored Tanner Norris. Norris knocked in a run on a sacrifice fly to right in the third, scoring Austin Russell.
Webb City battled back in the bottom of the fifth on a Jacob Lammey RBI groundout, bringing Mickey home.
In the sixth, Cory Watson smacked a home run over the left-field wall to give Willard a 3-2 lead. Willard followed the home run with a pair of hard-hit singles off Webb City starter Tanner Lane, who was pulled after allowing three runs and seven hits over 5.1 innings, striking out six.
“When we have Tanner on the mound we know he’s going to get in there and he’s going to compete and hitters are really going to have to battle,” Webb City head coach Garry Highfill said. “I knew when [Watson] hit the home run that he just left the ball out over the plate a little bit, and he doesn’t normally do that.”
Logan Vanwey came away with the win for Webb City after shutting down Willard in 3.2 innings of no-hit relief, striking out six and walking one.