By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
WEBB CITY, Mo. – With the bases loaded and his team trailing by a run in the third inning of Tuesday’s Central Ozark Conference baseball tilt at Webb City, Tyler Ledford stepped to the plate.
The Joplin junior drove a pitch to the right field wall for a bases-clearing triple, keying a four-run inning for the Eagles en route to an 8-6 win over the Cardinals.
“We had some really good at bats where we competed and got some things done and put some balls in play,” Joplin coach Kyle Wolf said. “They made a few miscues and I think the biggest thing there is we took advantage of it. That’s what I just told them, teams that give themselves opportunities to win games take advantage of those mistakes and that’s what we did today. Very proud of that effort.”
Joplin senior Blake Dean singled, senior Grant Jones reached on an infield error and then senior Josh Wells worked a five-pitch walk to load the bases.
Junior Holden Ledford later drove in another run with a groundout to third to give the Eagles a 5-2 lead when the inning was finally done.
“That’s one of the innings one of the errors happened,” Webb City coach Garry Highfill said. “It was a big play that would have been helpful. You get the bases loaded in high school baseball and you have to throw strikes. Guys are going to take good swings at it. Credit to Joplin, they did what they had to do when we made mistakes and they capitalized.”
Joplin tacked on another run in the fourth with a walk and an error, and the Eagles scored two more runs in the fifth. Wells led off that inning with a double and Tyler Ledford reached on an error. Holden Ledford drove them both in with a triple to right.
The 8-2 lead was more than enough for Joplin starter Josh Wells. He allowed two runs in the first while giving up three singles and walking one, but settled down after that and allowed just three hits and a walk over the next four innings.
“He’s going to go out and compete his tail off for his team and that’s what he did today,” Wolf said. “I still don’t think Josh probably has been as good as he can be for us, just stuff wise and consistency, but at the end of the day I know he’s going to give us a chance to win a game because he’s going to compete hard for us. I’m very proud of his effort.”
Wells ran into trouble in the sixth, though, allowing three-straight hits including a triple as Webb City mounted a late rally with four runs to make it 8-6.
Junior Carlos Maturino came on in relief and promptly got two outs to end the inning. He retired the Cardinals in order in the seventh to end the game.
Wells’ final line was 5.1 innings with four earned runs and three strikeouts.
Webb City starter Cade Beason, a senior, tossed four innings and allowed five earned runs while striking out three. Senior Draydon Emery pitched three innings in relief and allowed just one hit while striking out four.
The teams combined to issue nine walks in the game.
“Obviously defensively we struggled a little bit at crucial times,” Highfill said. “Some of the plays we didn’t make opened the door for them to score a lot of their runs. Going into the season we knew defense was going to be a big fight for us and we were going to have to play really good defense. Today we just made errors at bad times.”
Joplin was led offensively by Tyler Ledford, who went 3-for-4 with three RBI’s and two runs. Holden Ledford was 1-4 with three driven in and a run. Senior Logan Irvin went 2-for-3 with an RBI, and Wells was 1-for-2 with two runs and two walks.
The Eagles stranded nine runners.
The top three hitters in Webb City’s lineup had multi-hit days. Leadoff hitter Devrin Weathers, a sophomore, was 2-for-4 with an RBI; sophomore Treghan Parker was 2-for-4 with a run and Beason went 3-for-4.
“We hit a lot of balls hard,” Highfill said. “I just talked to our guys about it. Some of the balls we hit were really hard and just right at them. It amazed me how many balls we hit hard and they didn’t even move their feet. Through those middle innings there were a lot of balls hit like that but we got down after that bad inning and our guys kind of went flat on us. In the sixth inning they come in and we talked about competing and overcoming adversity and they came up and had some better swings that inning. Maybe I should have had that talk in the third inning.”
Joplin improved to 7-3 with the win and has now scored at least eight runs in four-straight games. The Eagles travel to Branson on Thursday.
Webb City fell to 8-6 with the loss and will travel to Pittsburg, Kansas Thursday to play powerhouse Colgan.